Four healthcare workers having a discussion in a hallway
Credit: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

Further guidance on the federal government’s healthcare worker COVID-19 vaccine rule that was expected to be issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services within the next two weeks could be held up as the agency awaits a final decision on the mandate in federal court. 

The agency in comments to LeadingAge on Wednesday said that “pending litigation limits our ability to provide any additional information on the timing of survey activity and the release of our guidance.” 

The statement was in response to the organization asking what providers should do after a preliminary injunction was granted by a Louisiana federal judge Tuesday against the Biden administration’s regulation.

“CMS is aware of the recent action by the U.S. District for the Western District of Louisiana and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and is reviewing the courts’ holding. CMS knows that everyone working in healthcare wants to do what is best for their patients to keep them safe and healthcare workers have a special ethical and professional duty to protect their patients,” the agency told LeadingAge. 

Janine Finck-Boyle, the organization’s vice president of regulatory affairs, read the statement during a Wednesday webinar with members. 

“The vaccine requirement for healthcare workers addresses the risks of unvaccinated healthcare staff to patient safety and provides stability and uniformity across the nation’s healthcare system,” CMS said. “Staff in any healthcare setting who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health.” 

The agency added, “That is why it is critical for healthcare providers to ensure their staff are vaccinated against COVID-19. CMS continues to encourage staff vaccinations even as the current requirements undergo further review.” 

The temporary injunctions can be challenged by CMS. In that case, a decision on the matter would come from the federal appeals courts. A timeline on that process is not yet known, LeadingAge staff noted during Wednesday’s call. 

CMS unveiled its long-awaited healthcare worker vaccination rule in early November and officials shortly after confirmed that providers could expect follow-up guidance soon after. An agency spokesman during the week of Thanksgiving said that the sub-regulatory guidance could be expected within a week or two but couldn’t give specific details at that time.