After announcing plans to end the vaccine mandate for health care workers following the end of the PHE, CMS has released the final rule that lays out the details. While CMS states in the rule that it "will not be enforcing the staff vaccination provisions" beginning June 5, at least one accrediting body said it expects agencies to keep the requirement in place until Aug. 4.
The Policy and Regulatory Changes to the Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination Requirements final rule is scheduled to be published June 5 in the Federal Register. Under the final rule, “COVID-19 vaccination policies and procedures for health care staff will no longer be required under the CoPs, CfCs and requirements.”
While the rule will not become official until 60 days after publication, CMS notes it will not be enforcing the requirement as of the publishing date. CMS states that since the PHE expired May 11, 2023, the circumstances requiring the staff vaccination rule no longer exist.
In an alert to providers, Community Health Accreditation Partner (CHAP) stated that there is no change in its requirements until the effective date of Friday, Aug. 4. "Until the effective date, the requirement for staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or documented as exempt is in effect and will be assessed during a compliance survey," CHAP states.
“CMS intends to encourage ongoing COVID-19 vaccination through other mechanisms, including its quality reporting and value-based incentive programs,” according to the final rule. “CMS continues to develop and refine quality measures for both patient and health care personnel vaccination to be used in appropriate quality programs and included patient and health care personnel vaccination quality measures.”
Measures under consideration for the Home Health Quality Reporting Program include “Percentage of patients who are considered up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations per the CDC’s latest guidance.”
Withdrawal of the requirements from the CoPs does not prohibit facilities from requiring staff vaccinations, CMS notes. “We encourage health care employers to maintain evidence-based policies regarding staff vaccination for COVID-19 and other communicable diseases for which vaccination is available and recommended.”
While some states have rules against vaccination, there are states where vaccination will still be required. “Facilities must maintain compliance with applicable state and local laws pertaining to vaccination,” CMS states.