Dropped, revised or in effect: Where COVID-19 vaccine rules stand at systems now

As HHS finalizes the end of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees of CMS-certified healthcare facilities, hospitals and health systems have varied approaches to their own rules. 

The federal mandate was initially enacted in November 2021. Hospitals and health systems subsequently continued to roll out requirements for their workers, with some firing workers for noncompliance. 

In early May, HHS announced it would drop the federal COVID-19 vaccine rule, and the Biden administration recently issued an 82-page final rule formalizing the mandate's end.

The new final rule moves to treat COVID-19, from an oversight standpoint, more like the flu. In the new final rule, the federal government notes that hospitals and health systems may still instate their own COVID-19 vaccination requirements for workers, consistent with other federal, state and local laws.  

Becker's reached out to multiple organizations to see where their mandates stand.

Rhonda Larimore. Chief Human Resources Officer for Akron (Ohio) Children's: Individuals no longer employed by Akron Children's due to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement are eligible to reapply for open positions. They will follow the same process for employment as other applicants but are not guaranteed an interview or to be rehired. All policies related to rehire will apply.  

Eric Cole. Corporate Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Scripps Health (San Diego): Scripps Health terminated very few employees when the COVID-19 vaccine mandate was implemented. Since that time and as views of the mandate changed over time, our hiring managers and talent acquisition team continuously reached out to previous hires and all qualified candidates about our open positions. Scripps Health simplified the onboarding process for those employees who left and were rehired within a year.

Kristin Kelly. Senior Specialist in Marketing and Communications at WakeMed (Raleigh, N.C.): As per WakeMed's vaccine policy, certain vaccinations — including influenza, COVID primary series, tDap — are a requirement of employment unless an employee cannot adhere to it due to medical or religious reasons. 

Rhonda Jordan. Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Virtua Health (Marlton, N.J.): When New Jersey in April rescinded its requirement of COVID-19 testing for health care workers who are unvaccinated, Virtua Health immediately announced that it no longer requires weekly COVID testing of its staff members who are exempt from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Virtua has made no other changes to its COVID-19 protocols based on the state's elimination of COVID testing requirements.

The state continues to mandate that healthcare workers be up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, unless they have an approved exemption. Virtua follows this state mandate and has a process for approving medical and religious exemption requests.

In accordance with the state requirement, Virtua continues to require proof of up-to-date COVID vaccination or an approved medical or religious exemption prior to staff members’ onboarding. Proof of immunization must include a copy of documentation indicating the date and location the vaccine was received, lot number and vaccine manufacturer.  A copy or photograph of the completed CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card is acceptable documentation.

M. Katie Friot, RN. Director of Infection Prevention at Rome (N.Y.) Health: "We anticipate that the [state] mandate will be repealed by the department of health as recommended," Ms. Friot said in a press release."As a result, the COVID-19 vaccine is no longer mandatory for employees of Rome Health."

Ms. Friot also noted that the decision to forgo waiting for the final ruling of the state repeal was made in conjunction with the hospital’s affiliate partner, Syracuse, N.Y.-based St. Joseph's Health and Trinity of New York.

"Rome Health will begin inviting colleagues who left due to the New York State vaccine mandate to consider returning to open positions," she said. "We will also reach out to recent job candidates who declined offers due to the mandate."


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