Nursing home inspector holding a clipboard
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services plans on issuing COVID-19 vaccination guidance covering surveyors charged with inspecting nursing homes, an agency spokesperson confirmed. 

“CMS recognizes the importance of ensuring that surveyors who are charged with ensuring compliance with all Medicare and Medicaid health and safety regulations, including vaccination requirements, are themselves mitigating the risk of COVID-19 in the certified providers and suppliers they inspect,” a CMS spokesperson told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Monday. 

“Therefore, CMS will develop additional guidance for federal, state, and CMS-contracted surveyors, as well as for independent accrediting organization[s], commensurate with the regulatory expectations for healthcare staff in CMS-certified facilities,” the spokesperson added. 

Providers have sought clarity from CMS on the issue since the agency unveiled its long-awaited healthcare worker vaccination rule last Thursday. The rule sets a Jan. 4, 2022, deadline for all eligible staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It also requires that facilities establish a policy that ensures all eligible workers have received their first dose of a two-dose regimen or a one-dose vaccine prior to providing any care, treatment or services on Dec. 5, 2021. 

The agency also called on providers to immediately start reviewing and begin the process of inoculating and tracking staff vaccinations to comply before the deadlines. 

The requirement applies to all staff, including those in non-clinical roles and routine service providers, but does not apply to visitors. CMS, however, “strongly encourages all individuals and families to get vaccinated now,” according to the spokesperson. 

The agency also cited an October report by Health and Human Services researchers showing the link between the administration of COVID-19 vaccines and reductions in deaths, hospitalizations and new infections among seniors. Specifically, the analysis found vaccines were associated with a reduction of about 5,600 deaths among nursing home Medicare beneficiaries, and that high vaccination rates among all adults were even more protective for Medicare beneficiaries than just high vaccination rates among the elderly.

“The COVID-19 vaccines protect communities by reducing infections, deaths and hospitalizations,” the CMS spokesperson urged. “Vaccination is the strongest tool we have against this virus.”