“Today I’m announcing a new step,” Biden said in remarks at the White House on Aug. 18. “If you work in a nursing home and serve people on Medicare or Medicaid, you will also be required to get vaccinated.”
The new policy would apply to more than 15,000 nursing home facilities across the United States, which employ approximately 1.3 million workers and serve about 1.6 million residents.
“More than 130,000 residents of nursing homes have sadly, sadly, over the period of this virus, passed away. At the same time, vaccination rates among nursing home staff significantly trail the rest of the country,” Biden said.
“With this announcement, I’m using the power of the federal government as a payer of health care costs to make sure we reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors. These steps are all about keeping people safe and out of harm’s way.”
The mandate will be issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the form of an emergency regulation and could take effect by September. According to data compiled by the agency, approximately 60 percent of nursing home staff are vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus.
“If you visit, live, or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk for contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees,” Biden said.
It marks the first time the White House has threatened to withhold federal funding to ramp up vaccination rates.
In recent weeks, the president has approved rules requiring that federal workers provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or face regular testing, travel restrictions, and mask mandates. The Pentagon on Aug. 9 said that it will require all active-duty military personnel to be vaccinated.
All three COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in the United States under emergency use authorization. Officials have suggested that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could become Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved as soon as this month.
The mandate comes amid a surge in cases of the more infectious Delta COVID-19 variant nationwide—now accounting for at least 80 percent of cases.
The White House said in a fact sheet that several states have already rolled out COVID-19 vaccine mandates for nursing home staff, “and this action will ensure consistent and equitable standards across the country.”
“We need to go faster. That’s why I’m taking steps on vaccination requirements where I can,” Biden said.
Earlier on Aug. 18, federal health officials announced that they plan to begin the distribution of COVID-19 booster shots next month. National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said that nursing home residents, health care providers, and the elderly are likely to be prioritized for the shots.