Millions of healthcare workers must get both doses of the vaccine by the spring. The federal government now has a timetable for every state.
The federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is in effect, and many workers have reached the deadline to get their first dose.
Workers in 25 states were required to have completed their first dose Jan. 27. Those workers are expected to be fully vaccinated by the end of February.
The Supreme Court upheld the federal government’s vaccine order earlier this month. Under the order, healthcare facilities receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funds must have their healthcare workers vaccinated. There are limited religious and health exemptions. The high court rejected a separate order requiring large employers to have their workers vaccinated or submit to regular testing.
The federal government has now set deadlines for healthcare workers in every state. Some states have different deadlines for first and second doses.
Texas, which had a legal challenge separate from the Supreme Court case, will have a bit more time to comply. But the Lone Star State is subject to the order, now that a legal challenge there has been resolved.
About 17 million healthcare workers are covered by the order, the White House has said. Healthcare workers do not have the option of COVID-19 testing to get around the mandate. Unless they are given a qualifying exemption, healthcare workers in facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid must get the COVID-19 vaccines or face losing their jobs.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services set these deadlines for healthcare workers to get vaccinated.
The first 25 states
Healthcare workers in these states must have completed their first dose Jan. 27: 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 Washington, D.C. and other U.S. territories are also required to have their first dose today.
Workers in those states and territories must be fully vaccinated by Feb. 28.
The next 24 states
If they haven't already started, healthcare workers in 24 states will need to begin their vaccination cycles soon.
Workers in these 24 states must have at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by Feb. 14: 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, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Healthcare providers in these states must be fully vaccinated by March 15.
Healthcare workers in Texas must have at least received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by Feb. 22, CMS says. They must be fully vaccinated by March 21.
Nursing homes and home health agencies that don’t comply could face fines, the denial of payment for new admissions, and, as a last result, have their participation in Medicare and Medicaid terminated.
Hospitals and other acute care providers only have one enforcement remedy: the loss of Medicare and Medicaid funds.
CMS has said it plans to focus on working with healthcare providers rather than punishing them. The agency has said it will work with healthcare providers who are making good faith efforts to meet the deadlines.
CMS has spelled out enforcement measures in its guidance.
Groups representing hospitals and nursing homes have urged the government to work with healthcare providers as they strive to get staff vaccinated. Some nursing home leaders in particular have said they are already struggling with a labor shortage and the vaccine mandate could make it harder to keep workers.
The Biden administration has said the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is a necessary step to protect patients and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The Omicron variant has sent COVID-19 patients to hospitals in record numbers, reaching new highs in the pandemic.
Nationwide, more than 140,000 people are being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals, but hospitalizations are starting to drop, with Northeast states seeing substantial declines. However, hospitalizations are rising in the South and West.