hand up refusing shot

Provider groups and seniors advocates say an effort by 22 states to repeal COVID-19 mandates for healthcare workers across all settings, including home health, could potentially increase infections and exacerbate the caregiver crisis.

National Association for Home Care & Hospice President and CEO William Dombi told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse withdrawing the mandate could discourage some patients from letting healthcare workers into their homes and increase absenteeism among direct care staff who contract the virus.

“Right now, we don’t believe this [repeal] is likely to happen with this administration or the new Congress, but we would expect to see it raised in the House and Senate,” Dombi said in an email. 

LeadingAge, which represents 5,000 nonprofit seniors service agencies, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse that vaccines have been a “game-changer” in the fight against COVID-19. 

“LeadingAge supports efforts to vaccinate and boost older adults and the people who care for them,” the organization said in an email. 

The coalition of 22 states led by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen (R)  filed a petition under the Administrative Procedures Act Thursday urging the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services to promptly repeal the vaccine requirement for healthcare workers and withdraw any associated guidance. 

The letter states the mandate was adopted last year when the delta variant was spreading and there is no evidence that vaccines stop the spread of the virus.

“The emergency IFR (interim final rule) intensified existing staffing shortages, especially in rural and frontier States,” the letter continues. “The result was a double-edged sword. On one side, the IFR modestly reduced patients’ risk of contracting COVID. But on the other side, the IFR significantly limited many patients’ access to needed medical care.”  

The co-signers of the letter include attorneys general from Arizona, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

Last month, the Supreme Court declined to hear a legal challenge to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers at facilities that receive federal funds. The justices rejected an appeal submitted by plaintiffs in mostly Republican-controlled states, after a lower court declined to hear their petition.

Approximately 10.4 million healthcare workers nationwide are subject to the mandate.