On May 11, 2021, pursuant to a new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) interim final rule, long-term care facilities will now be required to report weekly data on COVID-19 vaccination status for both residents and staff to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).
The reporting will apply to long-term care and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and the requirements are scheduled to take effect beginning on June 14, 2021. There is discussion that this requirement may be expanded to other congregate settings, including assisted living facilities and group homes. Additionally, long-term care and intermediate care facilities will have to educate their residents and employees about COVID-19 vaccines, and offer such vaccines and boosters to those populations when available.
CMS reported that the COVID-19 vaccination weekly status reporting requirement is designed to assist in monitoring vaccine uptake among residents and staff; help identify any facilities that may need additional COVID-19 resources; increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence and acceptance especially among staff; and ensure equitable vaccine access for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Additional information that must be reported include each dose of vaccine received, COVID-19 adverse vaccine-related events, and therapeutics administered to residents for the treatment of COVID-19. Similar to the failure to provide vaccine information regarding pneumococcal and flu, civil money penalties will be imposed for facilities that fail to report vaccination data. Additional CMS requirements may also be in the pipeline for providers.
CMS facility-specific vaccination status information will be available on its COVID-19 Nursing Home Data website. This is seen as a move by CMS to increase vaccination rates among staff in long-term care facilities that have not mandated vaccines and to provide publicly available data with respect to vaccination rates by facility. The document goes on to clarify that residents and their representatives have the right to refuse the vaccine in accordance with resident rights requirements and cannot have retaliatory action taken against them, including social isolation, involuntary discharge from the facility, and denial of visitation.
The comment period for the interim final rule closes July 12. CMS has also published a QSO memo about operational requirements for the CMS interim final rule that can be found here.
With the level of turnover of residents and staff in long-term care facilities, vaccinations will continue to play a critical role in the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19. Providers need to stay up to date with evolving requirements concerning vaccines of residents and staff.
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