Cuero, Texas: President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirement for the more than 17 million U.S. health care workers to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 5, 2021 was created to improve patient and staff safety, and alleviate the strain on all health centers and clinics by boosting the country’s overall vaccination rate. About 41% of U.S. hospitals already have a vaccine mandate, according to the American Hospital Association.
The emergency rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Nov. 4 will require more than 17 million employees across approximately 76,000 health care settings to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4. Facilities that don't comply with the CMS Conditions of Participation face the prospect of losing Medicare and Medicaid funding.
But the story is more complicated in rural America, particularly in the South Texas rural counties served by Cuero Regional Hospital. There are concerns that this vaccine mandate will exacerbate a labor shortage that was profound even before the pandemic. Cuero Regional Hospital and clinics have been encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but had not mandated them in compliance with Governor Abbott’s executive orders up to this point. That all changed on November 5th when the Biden administration issued regulations requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for the great majority of healthcare workers that work at hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings and home health agencies that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement.
“Given that development, Cuero Regional Hospital will now require all staff who does not qualify for an exemption to have the J&J/Janssen vaccine or their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by December 5th and be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022,” said Lynn Falcone, CEO of Cuero Regional Hospital. The three vaccines are readily available to all staff and boosters are currently offered to all that qualify.
As of early October, nearly 43% of the rural population was fully vaccinated, compared with 53% of the U.S. population, according to an analysis of federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by the Daily Yonder.
“I am very proud of our team and the work they have done over the past two years; while this law is to improve safety for patients and staff; some staff are struggling with the mandate and may choose employment outside healthcare,” said Falcone. “We are doing our best to implement this requirement as easily as possible for our staff and we thank our healthcare team for their unwavering commitment to our mission and dedication to caring for others.”
For more information, visit www.CueroHospital.org