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CMS Vaccine Mandate Update

 
A recent court decision halted implementation of the federal COVID-19 vaccine requirement for staff at health care facilities. Read on to learn more about what the ruling means for community health centers.
 
On November 30, a judge for the U.S. District Court for Western Louisiana ordered a preliminary injunction of the Interim Final Rule implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care facilities from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), halting the rule nationwide. This means that all CMS certified facilities across the country, including health centers must stop implementation and enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate rule.  
 
How does the preliminary injunction affect community health centers? 
The ruling means that the Phase 1 (December 6) and Phase 2 (January 4) implementation deadlines are no longer in effect.

December 6 was the date by which health centers would have developed policies and procedures to implement the mandate. This was also the date by which staff would have received their first dose of a two-dose series, or their only dose of a single dose vaccine, or have requested an exemption or temporary delay.  

January 4, 2022 was the time by which health centers would have had all staff fully vaccinated, or have received approval for a medical or religious exemption, or temporary delay for a medical reason. 
 
What comes next for the Interim Final Rule? 
The ruling by the Louisiana judge followed a decision by a Missouri judge on November 29, that blocked the CMS vaccine rule from taking effect in 10 states (Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming). The Louisiana decision halted implementation of the CMS vaccine mandate in the remaining states, including Tennessee. 

The preliminary injunctions in the Missouri and Louisiana rulings may be overturned by a higher court. CMS appealed the decision in the Missouri case and is likely to appeal the decision in the Louisiana ruling. After the Appeals Courts, the Supreme Court would be the final step in the process.  
 
How does the preliminary injunction interact with state law? 
State laws regarding vaccine mandates vary widely across the country. If state law permits employers to institute vaccine mandates, health centers in those states could still move forward with requiring the COVID-19 vaccine. In many other states, including Tennessee, where laws prohibit employers from compelling employees to share their vaccine status, or prohibit mandates all together, health centers are prevented from implementing a vaccine mandate for the time being. 
 

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