Medicare will require nursing homes to report COVID-19 vaccination rates for residents and staff, the government said Tuesday, in what officials hope will be an incentive for facilities to keep giving shots even as the worst ravages of the pandemic ease.
“We’re hoping to drive increased vaccination rates among residents and staff, as well as transparency for residents and their families,” said Dr. Lee Fleisher, chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“Today’s announcement directly aids nursing home residents and people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19," Fleisher added. "Our goal is to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence and acceptance among these individuals and the staff who serve them.”
The new rule also requires long-term care facilities and intermediate care centers both "educate and offer the COVID-19 vaccine to residents, clients, and staff."
The agency expects to start receiving vaccination numbers from nursing homes in the coming weeks and plans to post the information on the internet so residents and families can easily access the details. Nursing homes are now required to report COVID-19 cases and deaths but not vaccinations. A relatively small number of facilities provide the data voluntarily to the government.
People living in long-term care facilities have borne a heavy toll from the pandemic. They represent about 1% of the U.S. population but accounted for 1 in 3 deaths, according to estimates from the COVID Tracking Project. Cases and deaths have plummeted after the government launched a concerted effort to vaccinate residents and staff.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 2.9 million nursing home residents and staffers are fully vaccinated. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have opened up family visits again after spending a year in lockdown.
Nursing homes are already required to report rates of flu vaccination. But until the new requirements were issued Tuesday, there was no similar requirement for COVID-19 vaccines even though disease from the coronavirus is far more lethal.