Vaccine Mandates: What You Need To Know

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) has finally released its interim final rule for healthcare organizations. This rule enforces the mandate of COVID-19 vaccinations set forth by President Biden. Its goal is to prevent the transmission of COVID to improve both workplace and patient safety.

In some ways, the CMS rule differs from the OSHA ETS, which was issued at the same time. Attention should be paid to the appropriate rules for your organization. The CMS rule preempts state laws that might prevent a facility from compliance.

The AHA has put together a summary of the rule that provides a good overview of the rule's applicability, enforcement, and key components.

Key Points To Focus On

  1. The timeline includes two phases, but the final deadline for employees to be fully vaccinated is January 4, 2022.
  2. The rule applies to clinical and non-clinical staff. It also includes some contract staff but excludes staff who work 100% remotely.
  3. The rule requires policies to be developed to support the mandatory vaccination program.
  4. At this time, no alternatives to vaccination are permissible except for an appropriate exemption such as the medical or religious exemptions described within the rule. Prior COVID-19 infection is not a vaccination exemption.
  5. Develop a process to document and track the vaccination status of all employees.
  6. Create contingency plans for staffing issues that may arise related to the vaccination requirement.

If your organization does not fall under the regulations of this rule, the OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) may still apply.

CMS has indicated that it plans to work with healthcare organizations to comply with this rule. However, penalties for non-compliance can range from monetary penalties and payment denials to termination of an organization’s participation in the Medicare & Medicaid program.

If you have questions or need further assistance, please contact me. I’m happy to help with any concerns you may have.

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Stacie Jenkins, VP of Patient Safety & Risk

About The Author

Stacie Jenkins is a registered nurse with a master’s degree in nursing informatics. She has more than 20 years’ experience in healthcare, working in patient care and quality/performance improvement positions. As director of quality and patient safety for the LHA Trust Funds, she works closely with hospital administrators, risk managers and nursing staff to improve patient safety and establish best practices. She conducts on-site assessments and gives presentations designed to help clients address their patient safety risk management challenges.