Healthcare Associations Express Support for Biden Healthcare Vaccine Mandate

Sept. 10, 2021
National healthcare associations expressed support for the announcement by President Biden that CMS would require that all patient care organizations receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding vaccinate their employees

After President Joe Biden on Thursday, September 9 announced a sweeping series of mandates around vaccination against the COVID-19 virus, including the requirement that all patient care organizations receiving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement require their employees to become vaccinated or to be tested weekly for COVID, national healthcare associations praised the move and emphasized their support for vaccine mandates in healthcare, in statements on their websites and in press releases.

The policy statement posted to the website of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Thursday noted that “The Biden-Harris Administration will require COVID-19 vaccination of staff within all Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities to protect both them and patients from the virus and its more contagious Delta variant.  Facilities across the country should make efforts now to get health care staff vaccinated to make sure they are in compliance when the rule takes effect. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), announced today that emergency regulations requiring vaccinations for nursing home workers will be expanded to include hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies, among others, as a condition for participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The decision was based on the continued and growing spread of the virus in health care settings, especially in parts of the U.S. with higher incidence of COVID-19,” the statement said.

Further, it quoted both Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, in statements included in the policy statement.

“There is no higher priority for us than patient health and safety. As the Delta variant strengthens, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to doing everything we can to keep patients, and those who care for them, safe,” Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “There is no question that staff, across any health care setting, who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health. Ensuring safety and access to all patients, regardless of their entry point into the health care system, is essential.”

And Administrator Brooks-LaSure noted that “We know that those working in health care want to do what is best for their patients in order to keep them safe. As the Delta variant continues to spread,” she said, “we know the best defense against it lies with the COVID-19 vaccine. Data show that the higher the level of vaccination rates among providers and staff, the lower the infection rate is among patients who are dependent upon them for care. Now is the time to act. I’m urging everyone, but especially those fighting this virus on the front lines, to get vaccinated and protect themselves, their families, and their patients from COVID-19.”

The policy statement noted that “CMS is developing an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that will be issued in October.  CMS expects certified Medicare and Medicaid facilities to act in the best interest of patients and staff by complying with new COVID-19 vaccination requirements.  Health care workers employed in these facilities who are not currently vaccinated are urged to begin the process immediately. Facilities are urged to use all available resources to support employee vaccinations, including employee education and clinics, as they work to meet new federal requirements.”

Provider responses affirmative

The responses to the set of mandates have been positive.

Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, based in Chicago and Washington, D.C., released this statement on Thursday:

“The mission of all hospitals and health systems is to care for patients and improve the health of their communities. This includes taking recommended and proven steps to protect both patients and the caregivers and other dedicated staff who proudly support this mission. The AHA has consistently urged all health care workers to be vaccinated and supports hospitals and health systems that chose to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their workforce, based on local factors.

Since the COVID-19 vaccines have become available, hospitals and health systems have been hard at work both to increase vaccination rates among their workforce and their broader community. We have supported hospitals that have mandatory vaccination policies. And, as a result, we have seen a growing number of hospitals and health systems announce mandatory vaccination policies for their workers…and more are doing so each day. In addition, the AHA, along with the American Medical Association and American Nurses Association, has been actively—and repeatedly—calling on the public to get vaccinated and adopt public health measures through the media and public service announcements that have reached millions.

We look forward to reviewing the details related to today’s announcement of these new policies in regard to implementation, timing and the need for appropriate exceptions to accommodate medical and religious concerns. As a practical matter, this policy may result in exacerbating the severe workforce shortage problems that currently exist. Consequently, given the critical challenges that we are facing in maintaining the resiliency of our workforce, and dealing with severe shortages, which the American Nurses Association has called a national crisis, we call on the Administration to work with us as partners in developing aggressive and creative strategies to address this matter to ensure that hospitals and health systems on the front lines of fighting the battle against COVID-19 have the necessary human resources to both win this battle and maintain essential health services for the patients and communities we serve.”

The Silver Spring, Md.-based American Nurses Association did not immediately release a statement on Thursday, but went on record back on July 26 with this statement supporting mandating nurses and all healthcare professionals to become vaccinated:

“The American Nurses Association (ANA), representing the interests of the nation’s 4.2 million registered nurses, supports health care employers mandating nurses and all health care personnel to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in alignment with current recommendations for immunization by public health officials.

Increasing circulation of new variants, lagging COVID-19 vaccination rates, and continued public skepticism calls for nurses to uphold their professional and ethical obligations to model the same prevention measures as their patients. For our nation to maintain the momentum of recovery efforts from this persistent pandemic, enough individuals and communities must get vaccinated to reduce the risk of further infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.

‘The scientific rigor to swiftly develop effective COVID-19 vaccines and the monumental efforts to ensure all Americans get vaccinated is nothing short of amazing. Vaccination is both a significant public health victory and a scientifically proven strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the loss of more American lives,’ said ANA President Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN. ‘As the largest group of health care professionals, nurses are critical to all facets of COVID-19 response efforts and must strive to remain physically and psychologically safe to function optimally to care for themselves, their patients and their communities. Nurses must get vaccinated.’

ANA’s decision to support COVID-19 vaccine mandates for nurses aligns with its longstanding position on immunizations, which emphasizes that effective protection of the public health mandates that all individuals receive immunizations against vaccine-preventable diseases. ANA also believes that the safety profile of authorized COVID-19 vaccines is stable and has included the three COVID-19 vaccines being administered under the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization. ANA maintains its stance to not support philosophical or religious exemptions as reasons not to get vaccinated.

‘A significant number of nurses working in a variety of health care settings across the nation have diligently fulfilled their ethical duty to protect themselves, their colleagues, patients and loved ones by getting a COVID-19 vaccine,’ said Dr. Grant. ‘We would absolutely be remiss to not acknowledge these nurses and applaud them for leading the charge and setting an example for their patients.’

In a survey of over 22,000 nurses conducted by the American Nurses Foundation between January 19 and February 16, 70% of nurses said they had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine. Most recently, in a survey of over 4,500 nurses conducted by the COVID-19 Facts For Nurses Campaign between April 12 and May 4, 83% of nurses reported that they had received the recommended dose regimen of two COVID-19 vaccine shots.

Nurses might desire more understanding about the safety profile of COVID-19 vaccines as they decide whether to get vaccinated and there are legitimate reasons that a nurse might decide not to take the COVID-19 vaccine, such as severe allergies, compromised immune systems, and other serious health conditions. ANA will continue to provide all nurses education and resources to guide their understanding and consideration of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Meanwhile, speaking as employers, a consortium of 14 healthcare associations on Thursday announced an agreement to support mandates in the workplace. As the statement said, “Today, a group of 14 health care organizations in and around Washington, D.C. issued a joint statement making COVID vaccination a condition of returning to work in their respective offices. The organizations agreeing to the mandate include trade associations, research organizations and advocacy groups. The group considers the statement a baseline commitment for assuring employee safety and health, and leaves room for participating organizations to take stronger actions up to and including vaccine mandates as a condition of employment.”

The statement, posted to the website of the Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP), stated that, “As health care organizations, the undersigned groups believe that preserving the public health is core to our missions. Accordingly, we commit to a requirement that all our employees receive a full course of COVID vaccination as a condition of returning to work in the office. Given the sharp rise in cases and deaths in the U.S., and recognizing that most new cases and the overwhelming majority of deaths occur among the unvaccinated, our organizations believe that a vaccine mandate is the primary way to assure the health and safety of our colleagues, family, friends, and communities. We also strongly support strategies that embrace the full complement of available public health interventions, including masking, testing, and social distancing.”

The 14 organizations are: AcademyHealth, America’s Essential Hospitals, AMCP, AMGA< ASHP, Association for Community Affiliated Plans, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, Alliance of Community Health Plans, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, National Health Council, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, National Pharmaceutical Council, SNP Alliance, and Society for Women’s Health Research.

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