CMS Rescinds the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is rescinding the COVID-19 vaccine requirement it had imposed on health care workers, effective August 4th. Read on to learn more!
In November of 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a rule requiring staff at CMS certified facilities including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCS) to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The requirement was challenged in federal court but ultimately upheld and went into effect for all states by early 2022.  
When does the CMS COVID-19 vaccine mandate end? 
On May 1, the Biden administration announced the CMS vaccine mandate for health care workers would end following the end of the Public Health Emergency on May 11. Although the Biden administration announced its intention to end the mandate, the requirement could not officially be withdrawn until CMS went through a rulemaking process.

Last week, CMS officially published the final rule to end the mandate, which becomes effective on August 4. In the interim, CMS will not be enforcing the vaccine mandate.  
What are the implications for state law? 
The ability of health centers across the country to continue requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for staff depends on each state's COVID-19 laws. Many states, including Tennessee, passed laws placing restrictions on COVID-19 vaccine mandates or prohibiting them altogether.  

In October 2021, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a broad COVID-19 bill during a special legislative session in that prohibited employers from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The legislation contained exemptions for facilities subject to the CMS vaccine mandate such as health centers.  

In 2022, the General Assembly passed SB11/HB2 as Public Chapter 48, which made many of the vaccine policies passed in the COVID-19 special session permanent. Since health center are no longer subject to the CMS vaccine mandate, they are subject to state laws that previously exempted them under that requirement.

For further clarification, health centers are encouraged to consult their legal counsel.  



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