17 million health care workers must be vaccinated by Jan. 4
17 million health care workers must be vaccinated by Jan. 4 under Biden’s COVID-19 mandate
The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a sweeping new COVID-19 vaccination rule that would require about 17 million health care workers across 76,000 hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities to get fully immunized by Jan. 4.
The vaccine mandate for health workers and an accompanying one for businesses with 100 or more employees aims to reduce the ranks of the unvaccinated, prevent workers and customers from getting sick and spur the economy by encouraging millions of Americans to return to work.
Unlike the companion mandate for private businesses, health care workers who refuse vaccination won’t have the option of getting tested in lieu of immunization. Citing “higher bar” for health facilities because of their critical role in ensuring the health and safety of patients, President Joe Biden’s plan will allow only health care workers who qualify for a medical or religious exemption to skip the immunization, a senior administration official said.
The new rule requires employees of health care facilities to be fully vaccinated with either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Jan. 4.
What to know: There are new federal COVID-19 vaccine rules for workers
The mandate applies to all facilities that take payments from Medicare or Medicaid, including hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis centers, ambulatory surgical centers and home health agencies. It applies to clinical workers such as doctors and nurses directly involved with patient care, and also nonclinical employees, students, trainees, and volunteers as well as contract employees who provide treatment or other services.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will enforce the mandate through routine inspections, or surveys, of the facilities that participate in the federal insurance programs. Facilities that don’t meet the vaccine mandate can be cited or fined but will be given multiple chances to improve vaccination compliance, officials said.
The federal regulations aim to ensure health providers comply with the new vaccine mandate. “It is not to punish workers for health care facilities. However, we will not hesitate to use our full enforcement authority to protect the health and safety of patients,” a senior administration official said.