The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services waxed a bit poetic in a final rule, which has yet to be published, about the ending of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“Based on an evaluation of the evolving clinical and epidemiological circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, increased vaccine uptake, declining infection and death rates, decreasing severity of disease, increased incidences of infection-induced immunity, public comments submitted to CMS, and the addition of COVID-19 vaccination quality measures to quality improvement and reporting programs, we believe regulations regarding COVID-19 vaccination of healthcare staff are no longer necessary,” the agency said. “Therefore, in this rule, we are withdrawing language on COVID-19 healthcare staff vaccination requirements issued in the staff vaccination IFC [interim final rule with comment].”
You can excuse the agency for getting a little flowery. The mandate that had caused so much angst, controversy and drama deserves an elaborate farewell. Dare we recall the fears surrounding the vaccine and the vitriol toward the mandate? Prior to the pandemic, most of us had never heard of the term “vaccine hesitancy.”
No, there unquestionably is a hint of poetry surrounding the end of this three-year-plus battle with an invisible but deadly foe that hurt so many and inflicted deep wounds on our society.
As part of its legacy: It arguably has opened up a new front on isolation among seniors. And the toll it has taken on home care staff, essentially cratering the industry, will take years to undo, if at all.
So, yes, I respect CMS for its flourish in announcing the end of the mandate. This chapter in our lives will not easily be forgotten or left behind. We need time and space to grieve this period and be kind to each other over the conflicts and suffering it created in its wake.
We are, after all, mere human beings trying to make the best of difficult circumstances. No match, not even close, for a virus.
Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected].