Pader Moua, MPH
Beginning Thursday, May 20, long-term care facilities (LTCFs) and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICFs-IID) must provide COVID-19 vaccination education and offer vaccines to all residents and staff. This interim final rule was announced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on March 11.
LTCFs must also report certain COVID-19 vaccination data and therapeutic treatments weekly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Healthcare Safety Network, a national infection tracking system for healthcare facilities.
These requirements, which are similar to those LTCFs must already comply with for influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, are an effort by CMS to ensure equitable access by and increase vaccinations among some of our most vulnerable populations. In the future, CMS is looking to expand these requirements to other congregate settings, including assisted living and psychiatric residential treatment facilities.
It does not appear at this point that CMS plans to report publicly on vaccine uptake by facility, although at least one state has taken steps to do so. Earlier this month, the Maryland Department of Aging began publicly reporting on the percentage of staff and residents at each nursing home who had received shots to protect against COVID-19. The data collection and public reporting were in response to an executive order from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
Vaccine uptake among LTCF staff has been a concern. Because of the high vulnerability of LTCF residents, both residents and staff of LTCFs were among the first to have access to COVID-19 vaccines. Despite this, the median rate of uptake among LTCF staff nationally was 38% from mid-December to mid-January, compared to a 78% rate among residents over the same time. In the absence of a vaccine mandate for LTCF staff, policymakers and are exploring ways to incentivize uptake and provide enhanced transparency for residents and their families.