The Biden administration will require that all nursing home staff members be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for facilities to continue receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding. President Joe Biden made the announcement in a televised address from the White House late Wednesday afternoon.
The mandate could take effect as soon as next month; a forthcoming regulation will be issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The announcement comes as the Biden administration seeks to raise the costs for those who have yet to get vaccinated. Hundreds of thousands of nursing home workers are not vaccinated, according to federal data. More than 200 million Americans have now received at least one dose of the vaccines, according to the White House. However, about 80 million Americans are eligible but haven’t yet been vaccinated.
Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, praised Biden’s decision, but called on him to go even further.
“Vaccination mandates for health care personnel should be applied to all health care settings,” he said. “Without this, nursing homes face a disastrous workforce challenge.”
Last year, CMS used similar regulatory authority to prohibit most visitors from nursing homes in an effort to protect residents.
The new requirement comes as the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement launched a new feature on its website to track COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccination rates in Arkansas nursing homes earlier this week.
The interactive dashboard, which gets its information from publicly available data on the website of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has been posted to the “COVID-19 in Arkansas” page on ACHI’s website.
The dashboard is intended to aid families as they seek placement for their loved ones in need of long-term care. It also is intended to help target outreach and education efforts to facilities with low vaccine uptake.
Arkansas nursing homes averaged 61 percent of health care personnel fully vaccinated, in line with the national average of 60 percent. Ten Arkansas nursing homes have reported that more than 50 percent of their residents infected with COVID-19 have died.