The federal vaccine mandate requiring health care workers to be inoculated in the coming weeks is “closely aligned” with its Colorado counterpart, the state health department said, as regulators here consider extending the local rule.
The mandate in Colorado was issued by the Board of Health as an emergency rule in August, shortly after Gov. Jared Polis asked the board to require health care workers to be inoculated.
Colorado’s rule — like the one detailed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — requires 100% uptake, though religious and medical exemptions are allowed. Both the federal and state rules promise escalating levels of discipline for facilities that don’t abide by the requirement.
Colorado vaccine mandate for health care workers boosts uptake
In Colorado, the rule in principle had received widespread support from the health care community. But its exact details — namely, the requirement for 100% inoculation — drew concern from hospital and long-term care representatives, who cautioned that figure was too high to be met. Some asked the Board of Health to revise the order and require only 90%, which would match regulations regarding flu inoculations.
But the board declined to do so, and officials said last month that they were anticipating the rule becoming permanent going forward. Board members and state officials said then they were waiting on details of the federal mandate before they would even consider changing the local regulations. Now, with those details out, it appears little will change here.
More than 237,000 Colorado health workers fully vaccinated; hundreds of facilities remain out of compliance
“The state is pleased to see that Colorado’s emergency rule is already closely aligned with the CMS federal mandate,” a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health and Environment said. “We are reviewing it now to understand the details of the federal rule and how it coincides with our current emergency state rule.”
Doug Farmer and Cara Welch, who represent Colorado nursing homes and hospitals respectively, both told the Gazette that it appears there will be little impact on Colorado from the mandate. The state mandate is now fully in effect, and the state has said it’s already begun issuing citations to out-of-compliance facilities. The federal requirement kicks in Jan. 4, according to CMS.
As of Friday, four days after facilities were required to report their vaccination rates, 1,486 of 2,333 Colorado health facilities covered by the rules here had done so. The health department says facilities are still reporting, but those who don’t are considered out of compliance and will also face disciplinary action by the state.
Of those facilities reporting, 90.4% of their staff have been fully vaccinated, marking full compliance. More than 1% are partially vaccinated, and 5.4% have received a religious or medical exemption. Just under 3% report unvaccinated staff.
In all, 163,112 staff from reporting facilities were inoculated, out of 177,730 workers, according to state data.
Last month, Randy Kuykendall, the director of health facilities for the state health department and a point-person for the vaccine mandate here, told the Board of Health that relationships between the state and facilities “have at moments been strained.”
But between late August and mid-October, Kuykendall said, vaccination uptake jumped 10 percentage points, from 75% to 85% for long-term workers. That group had consistently lagged behind other health care staffers. By the end …….