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DOH Removes Health Care Personnel Booster Vaccine Mandate

Last week, the Public Health and Health Planning Council (PHHPC) adopted amendments to the health care personnel (HCP) COVID-19 vaccination mandate proposed by the Department of Health (DOH), including the removal of the booster mandate. HCP in covered health care settings (i.e., hospitals, nursing homes, adult care facilities (ACFs), home care agencies, hospice, etc.) are still required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, the amendments to the regulation clarify that new HCP who commence working with only their first dose in a two-dose vaccination series must receive the second dose within the recommended timeframe.

In the PHHPC meeting, DOH clarified that the insertion of the phrase "that such personnel receive their subsequent dose(s) according to the CDC or CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended timeframe" refers only to the second dose in a primary vaccination series – not booster doses. LeadingAge NY had submitted comments pointing out the ambiguity of the amendment. A recording of the meeting is available here. The amended regulation, which remains an emergency regulation, has not yet been published in the State Register. It will expire, unless extended, after 60 days. An earlier version of the regulation had been proposed for adoption on a non-emergency basis.

Nursing homes have asked whether the lifting of the State booster mandate affects the federal requirement for nursing homes to conduct routine screening tests of HCP who are not "up-to-date" with their vaccinations. The elimination of the State booster requirement does not affect the federal testing requirements imposed on nursing homes. HCP who are not “up-to-date” with their vaccinations must still be tested routinely based on the community transmission rates in the facility’s county. This would include those who are fully vaccinated and eligible for a booster, but are not boosted; those who are not fully vaccinated; and those who are unvaccinated (i.e., exempt). In most counties, these individuals must be tested twice weekly. Providers are reminded that the routine testing requirement applies to contractors and others providing services “under arrangement,” such as hospice personnel. However, testing is not necessary for asymptomatic people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the prior 90 days.

We understand that DOH may be providing additional guidance in response to the recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updates on staff testing and visitation, and we will notify members as soon as it becomes available.

Contact: Karen Lipson, klipson@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8838