On May 11, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule intended to promote COVID-19 vaccine confidence and uptake among long-term care facility (LTCF) and residents and staff. Among other requirements, LTCFs must now offer the COVID-19 vaccine to residents and staff members, educate these individuals on the benefits and possible side effects of the vaccine, and report vaccination status of residents and staff to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The announcement follows a recommendation made by the U.S. Government Accountability (GAO) agency in March that said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should require nursing homes to offer COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff. The new guidance is particularly relevant for counties, who own, operate and support 758 skilled nursing facilities and nursing homes across the country.
The interim final rule requires that LTCFs:
- Develop policies and procedures to educate residents or their representatives and staff regarding the benefits and potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine;
- Offer the COVID-19 vaccine to residents and staff, unless it is medically inadvisable, or the individual has already been vaccinated;
- Maintain records that reflect the facility provided the required COVID-19 vaccine education and whether the individual received the vaccine; and
- Report on the COVID-19 vaccine status of residents and staff, each dose of the vaccine received, COVID-19 vaccination adverse events and therapeutics administered to residents for treatment of COVID-19 to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).
These new requirements, which also apply to Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICFs-IID), are aimed at improving COVID-19 vaccine confidence among residents and staff, and to identify facilities that require additional assistance to respond to the pandemic. Given that LTCFs are home to older adults and individuals with underlying chronic conditions who are more susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19 illness, the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on long-term care environments. However, since vaccination efforts began in December 2020, COVID-19 deaths in LTCFs have declined by 89 percent across the country as of April 2021. The new rule appears poised to capitalize on this trend to ensure that our nation’s most vulnerable and those that care for them have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Counties play an integral role in helping to ensure the safety of nursing home and skilled nursing facilities residents and staff. NACo will continue to monitor new federal regulations guiding LTCFs’ response to the coronavirus pandemic and keep members up to date on new developments.
- CMS Press Release on Interim Final Rule
- CMS Memo on Interim Final Rule
- NACo Brief: Nursing Homes and COVID-19
- NACo Vaccine Resource Hub
- NACo County Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Aging Services