Nursing homes will need to make major progress on resident and staff vaccine reporting to avoid penalties, if data released Thursday is any indication.

Newly unveiled figures show that as of May 30 — just two weeks before penalties kick in this coming Monday —  only about one-fourth of nursing homes had reported their staff and resident COVID-19 vaccination rates to federal authorities.

Warnings emerged as the federal government first began releasing vaccination data for individual nursing homes Thursday on the CMS COVID-19 Nursing Home Data website.

A Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokesman said that while the agency strongly preferred not to levy civil monetary penalties, it would have no option but to fine operators that had not provided rates for both residents and staff by 11:59 p.m. ET Sunday. 

Nursing homes have been required to submit their data since May 21 and submissions reflected activity only through the week of May 30, the spokesman pointed out. That percentage has likely risen, he added, and if history is any indication, many more would submit data by the weekend.

Jodi Eyigor

“What we’re hearing is that only about 28% of nursing homes had reported on this data,” noted Jodi Eyigor, LeadingAge’s nursing home policy lead, on the group’s regular COVID-19 conference call Thursday. “If you have not begun to include the vaccination data and the therapeutics in your data submissions by this Sunday night at 11:59 p.m., then come Monday morning, you’re going to find a CMP.”

Leaders of the American Health Care Association noted that the initial data release shows providers they still have work to do, especially with regard to a June 30 goal of vaccinating 75% of staff overall.

“These preliminary results indicate that while we have made considerable progress in the past few months, we still have farther to go,” AHCA said in a statement to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. “Ongoing vaccine education and outreach to both staff and residents will be critical in protecting our vulnerable population from COVID-19.”

Best and worst

Also revealed in Thursday’s major data release: Fewer than 750 of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes had met the industry’s goal of at least 75% of staff being vaccinated. Details about individual facilities are provided in a spreadsheet.

Other new elements include a hover box in a map that allows users to linger over a facility and see resident and staff vaccination rates, and two bar graphs showing the percentage of residents and staff vaccinated by state. A downloadable data set includes the new vaccination data elements.

The top states for overall staff vaccination rates as of May 30 were Vermont (78.3%), California (76.5%) and Hawaii (76.5%), while the lowest were Wyoming (39.9%) and Mississippi (41%).

States with the greatest percentage of residents vaccinated were Vermont (96.9%), New Hampshire (92.3%) and Rhode Island (91.4%), while those with the least were Nevada (65.1%), Georgia (69.7%) and Florida (69.8%).

“This information is a critical step to protect nursing home residents and staff from COVID-19, and continue to drive cases down,” a spokesman with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Thursday. 

“We would rather nursing homes report as required so we do not have to impose CMPs. However, for those that do not report, we will enforce this requirement,” the spokesman added.

CMS officials have said previously that enforcement of data submission can be conducted remotely, and providers could be cited outside of an on-site inspection.

The new data submission requirement was first announced with the issuance of an interim rule May 11. The rule also requires providers to educate residents and staff about COVID-19 vaccines and to offer shots. The rule is final, but CMS is accepting comments on it through July 12.

Long-term care providers previously had been required to report COVID-19 testing, case and mortality data via the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Safety Network, but they had not been required to report vaccination data until recently.

In announcing the new weekly reporting requirement a month ago, officials said it would help increase transparency among vaccination efforts and help health authorities focus attention and resources on providers most in need.

The tabulations can be found here. Information about how to submit data to the NHSN can be found here. Officials advise providers to email questions to [email protected].