No exemption for natural immunity permitted at hospital suffering ’emergency staffing situation’
By Guy Page
Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday, Jan. 13 allowing the federal directive requiring Covid-19 vaccination at all health care facilities receiving Medicare funds, the University of Vermont Medical Center said – again – it will require all workers not qualifying for exemptions to become vaccinated or face termination. There will be no exception for natural immunity.
However, the CMS policy allows some exemptions under which an employee may continue working, provided they undergo testing.
“As we have previously made clear, we intend to comply with the federal government’s mandatory vaccination policy,” UVMMC spokesperson Neal Goswami told Vermont Daily Chronicle today. “We continue to strongly encourage employees to get vaccinated. As an academic health system, we know that the data and science show that vaccines work to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus and prevents severe illness, hospitalization and death. Vaccination is the strongest tool we have toward ending this pandemic.”
UVMMC currently faces an “emergency staffing situation,” with many workers out sick and patient census growing due to Omicron and other factors, the head of nursing told all nurses in a recent memo.
UVMMC had announced Nov. 11 it would fully comply with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rule titled Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination, published Nov. 5 in the Federal Register. However, a subsequent federal court decision held up the CMS ruling, forcing UVMMC to pause its vax mandate until yesterday’s decision.
“As an academic health system, we rely on data, research and science to keep our patients healthy and save lives. We have been clear about the fact that vaccination is how we protect each other and our patients from COVID-19 and end this pandemic and we intend to comply with this policy. We are grateful to the overwhelming majority of our employees who have already been vaccinated,” Goswami said Nov. 11.
The Nov. 5 federal rule specifically prohibits exceptions for:
- Unvaccinated employees testing weekly. “We have reviewed scientific evidence on testing and found that vaccination is a more effective infection control measure. As such, we chose not to require such testing for now but welcome comment,” the rule says. However, some permitted exemptions are allowed provided the employee undergoes testing.
Natural immunity. This exception was rejected because it would have “complicated administration and likely require standards that do not now exist for reliably measuring the declining levels of antibodies over time in relation to risk of reinfection.”