Healthcare workers in 25 states have COVID-19 vaccine deadline

CMS said healthcare workers in half the states must be fully vaccinated by Feb. 28. Later this week, the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments about the government’s vaccine mandate.

The federal government has set new deadlines for healthcare workers in 25 states to get the COVID-19 vaccines.

Healthcare employees in those 25 states and Washington D.C. must get their first vaccine dose by Jan. 27 and must be fully vaccinated by Feb. 28, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. Federal court rulings have blocked the government’s vaccine order for healthcare workers in 25 states, so the deadlines don’t apply to those states.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments on the vaccine order on Friday, Jan. 7. The justices will also hear arguments pertaining to a broader order covering businesses in the private sector.

Last fall, President Biden’s administration announced healthcare workers would need to get vaccinated. The order affects 17 million healthcare workers and covers facilities receiving federal funds from Medicare or Medicaid. The initial vaccine deadline was set to be Jan. 4, but that was scrapped due to the ongoing legal challenges.

The White House order covering much of the private sector requires companies to ensure workers are vaccinated or submit to regular testing. The separate order covering healthcare workers doesn’t include a testing option; healthcare workers who refuse to get vaccinated face the loss of their jobs.

The White House has said it has the authority to impose the vaccine order on healthcare workers. The Biden administration argues it’s a sensible measure to protect patients from COVID-19, which has been tied to more than 800,000 deaths nationwide.

Critics say the vaccine mandates violate personal liberties and could also make it harder for states and healthcare systems already struggling with a shortage of workers.

The CMS released the new vaccination deadlines for some states on Dec. 28. The new timetable gives those healthcare workers about a month to get their first dose and two months to get fully vaccinated.

The Feb. 28 vaccination deadline is in effect for healthcare workers in these states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state, and Wisconsin.

Healthcare workers in the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories also must be vaccinated, the CMS said.

The CMS said the vaccine order will not apply to these states where a federal court ruling has blocked the mandate: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Some states had imposed their own regulations compelling healthcare workers to get vaccinated in recent months. Two states - California and New Mexico - have required healthcare workers to get COVID-19 booster shots.

More than 2,500 hospitals - about 40% of the nation’s hospitals - have required their employees to get vaccinated, according to the White House.

Some healthcare systems have held off on requiring their workers to get vaccinated until the legal questions over the government’s orders are resolved.

The Supreme Court's decision to hear arguments surprised some observers. Typically, the court doesn't publish its decisions for weeks or months, but it's possible the justices will reach a decision more quickly than usual.