Biden administration requiring healthcare workers to receive COVID-19 vaccine

The regulation would affect more than 17 million healthcare workers.

The federal government is requiring eligible staff at Medicare and Medicaid participating health care facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to a news release, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released an emergency regulation mandating the vaccinations in an effort to protect both the workers and patients. The regulation sets a Dec. 5, 2021, deadline for those covered facilities to establish a policy to ensure all eligible staff have received either the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine before they provide care, treatment, or other services to patients. All eligible staff must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

“Ensuring patient safety and protection from COVID-19 has been the focus of our efforts in combatting the pandemic and the constantly evolving challenges we’re seeing,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure says in the release. “Today’s action addresses the risk of unvaccinated health care staff to patient safety and provides stability and uniformity across the nation’s health care system to strengthen the health of people and the providers who care for them.”

The requirement will apply to about 76,000 providers and will cover more than 17 million healthcare workers across the U.S. It will create a consistent standard across Medicare and Medicaid and give patients piece of mind about their clinician’s vaccination status, the release says.

In other news, Jan. 4 is also the deadline for large companies to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in a move expected to cover 84 million workers in the private sector. President Joe R. Biden announced his intention to require the shots in a speech Sept. 9.

As previously reported, mandating employee vaccinations is a prospect fraught with possible pitfalls for physicians and an improperly implemented mandate could see employers running afoul of a number of laws including: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and certain privacy laws.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that under the ADA, Title VII, and other federal employment nondiscrimination laws, employers can require all employees who enter their work premises to be vaccinated for COVID-19. However, this mandate is subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions of various laws and other equal employment opportunity considerations.

Meanwhile, surveys of the general population show that vaccine mandates can have a positive impact on vaccination rates.

More than 1 in 4 unvaccinated adults said they would get vaccinated if required to attend a sporting event or concert. More than 10% said they’d “definitely” receive a shot to go to such an event, while an even greater share of unvaccinated adults said they could be convinced to get a vaccine in order to shop in a store (35%) or to send one’s child to school (33%).

Not surprisingly, vaccinated adults were more likely to support these policies than unvaccinated respondents. Roughly 70% of vaccinated adults supported vaccine mandates for indoor concerts and sporting events, for example, but only about one-third of unvaccinated consumers said the same.