Jose Muniz prepares a COVID-19 vaccination at American research centers in Hollywood, Florida (Joe Raedle / Getty Images / TNS)
Government officials are raising new expectations regarding COVID-19 vaccines in facilities for people with disabilities, and similar rules are being considered for group homes.
Long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities must educate residents and employees about COVID-19 vaccines and offer them shots under the tentative final ruling published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the federal government register this week .
In addition, facilities must report the COVID-19 vaccination status of residents and staff to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a weekly basis.
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The rule of not requiring anyone to be vaccinated is in line with existing mandates for influenza vaccines and pneumococcal vaccines in long-term care facilities, according to CMS.
“These new requirements reinforce CMS ‘commitment to ensuring equitable access to vaccines for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries,” said Dr. Lee Fleisher, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality at CMS. “Today’s announcement directly helps residents of nursing homes and people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Our goal is to increase the confidence and acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines among these people and the employees who operate them. “
The CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network is already collecting data on COVID-19 tests, cases, and mortality in long-term care facilities. CMS said that gathering information on vaccination status from residents and staff will enable facilities to be identified that may need additional assistance in responding to the pandemic. Data on individual facilities is published publicly on the CMS COVID-19 website for nursing homes.
Facilities must meet the new requirements to continue receiving funding from Medicaid or Medicare.
While the current rule only applies to certain types of long-term care facilities, CMS is seeking comments on ideas for applying similar guidelines to other care facilities in the community such as group homes and assisted living. Comments are accepted for 60 days.
Meanwhile, Medicaid-funded home and community service providers are encouraged to offer voluntary training and provide COVID-19 vaccines to residents and employees.
Many facilities across the country are already training their residents and staff and participating in vaccine distribution programs, CMS typically said. “However, participation in these efforts is not universal and we fear that many groups are at higher risk of infection, especially residents and customers of (long-term care) facilities and (intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities) do not have access to the COVID-19 vaccination . “
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