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Vaccination mandate to be launched for first wave of health workers

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Vaccination mandate to be launched for first wave of health workers

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Healthcare workers in about half the states face a deadline Thursday to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine under a Biden administration mandate that will be rolled out to the rest of the country in the coming weeks.

While this requirement is welcomed by some, others fear it could worsen already severe staffing shortages if employees quit rather than comply.

“We would like to see staff vaccinated. We believe this is the safest option for residents, which is our biggest concern,” said Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a nonprofit in the city. St. Louis County, Missouri, who works for the nursing account. home residents. “But not having staff is also a very big concern, because the resulting neglect is serious and very frightening.”

The mandate affects a wide swath of the healthcare industry, spanning doctors, nurses, technicians, aides and even volunteers in hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and others. providers who participate in federal Medicare or Medicaid programs.

It comes as many places are stretched by the omicron surge, which is putting record numbers of people in hospital with COVID-19 while sickening many health care workers.

Nationwide, about 81% of nursing home staff were already fully immunized at the start of the month, ranging from a high of 98% in Rhode Island to a low of 67% in Missouri, according to the Centers. for Federal Medicare & Medicaid Services. Data is unclear on vaccination levels in hospitals and other health care sites.

The mandate will eventually cover 10.4 million healthcare workers in 76,000 facilities.

It takes effect first in jurisdictions that have not challenged the requirement in court. These include some of the largest states, with some of the largest elderly populations, including: California, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

“There have absolutely been employee quits because of vaccination requirements,” said Catherine Barbieri, a Philadelphia attorney who represents health care providers. But “I think it’s relatively small.”

At Wilson Medical Center in rural Neodesha, Kansas, three of approximately 180 employees are quitting and several others have requested exemptions from the vaccination mandate, hospital spokeswoman Janice Reese said.

“We’re very lucky that’s all we lose,” she said, noting that the hospital was not supportive of the warrant. “We didn’t feel like it was up to us to try to tell a person what to do.”

Reese said the vaccine requirement could also make it harder for the hospital to fill vacancies.

In Florida, medical centers find themselves between dueling federal and state vaccination policies.

Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has led a legal campaign against coronavirus mandates, signed legislation last year that requires companies with vaccine requirements to let workers withdraw for medical reasons, religious beliefs, immunity to previous infection, regular testing, or agreement to wear protective equipment. Businesses that fail to comply can be fined $10,000 to $50,000 per violation.

When asked if the state would pursue fines against hospitals that enforce the federal mandate, a spokeswoman for the Florida attorney general said all employee complaints “will be thoroughly investigated by our office.”

Some states already have their own vaccine requirements for healthcare workers. In California, for example, they must be fully vaccinated by September 30 and must receive a booster by February 1.

The federal mandate is “better late than never,” said Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Health Care Workers, which represents about 15,000 people in California. “But if it had happened sooner, we wouldn’t have gone through the wave, and a lot more people would be alive today.”

The government has said it will begin enforcing the first vaccine dose requirement on February 14 in two dozen other states where injunctions were lifted when the US Supreme Court upheld the mandate a while ago. two weeks. The requirement will go into effect Feb. 22 in Texas, which had filed a separate lawsuit.

In Missouri, a nursing home notified this week that it intends to take advantage of a state rule that allows facilities to close for up to two years if they are understaffed due to the requirement for vaccines. The state health department did not identify the nursing home, saying it was still notifying families and arranging transfer plans.

“Obviously we’re proponents of vaccines,” department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said. But “throughout all of this, we knew that imposing it would have a truly negative impact on our health care system…simply because of crippling staffing levels.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could ultimately cut funding to places that don’t comply with the mandate. But he plans to start the application with encouragement rather than a heavy hand.

CMS guidance documents say it will grant leniency to places that have at least 80% compliance and an improvement plan in place, and it will seek to incentivize others.

“The overarching goal is to get providers across that finish line and not cut federal dollars,” said MaryBeth Musumeci, Medicaid expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

The states affected Thursday are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia and US territories.


Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Anthony Izaguirre contributed to this report.

Vaccination mandate to be launched for first wave of health workers

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