Government officials are setting new expectations related to COVID-19 vaccines at institutions for people with disabilities and similar rules are under consideration for group homes as well.

Long-term care facilities like nursing homes and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities must educate residents and staff about COVID-19 vaccines and offer shots to them under the interim final rule being published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the Federal Register this week.

In addition, the facilities are required to report the COVID-19 vaccination status of both residents and staff to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a weekly basis.

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The rule, which stops short of requiring anyone to be vaccinated, aligns with existing mandates for influenza and pneumococcal vaccines at long-term care facilities, CMS said.

“These new requirements reinforce CMS’ commitment of ensuring equitable vaccine access for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries,” said Dr. Lee Fleisher, chief medical officer and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality at CMS. “Today’s announcement directly aids nursing home residents and people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Our goal is to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence and acceptance among these individuals and the staff who serve them.”

The CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network already collects data on COVID-19 testing, cases and mortality at long-term care facilities. CMS said that soliciting information about the vaccination status of residents and staff will allow facilities to be identified that may need additional assistance in responding to the pandemic. Data about individual facilities will be posted publicly on CMS’ COVID-19 nursing home data website.

Facilities must comply with the new requirements in order to continue receiving funding from Medicaid or Medicare, officials said.

While the current rule only applies to certain types of long-term care facilities, CMS is soliciting comment on ideas for applying similar policies to other congregate care settings like group homes and supervised apartments. Comments will be accepted for 60 days.

In the meantime, providers of Medicaid-funded home and community-based services are being encouraged to voluntarily provide education and offer COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff.

Many facilities across the country are already educating their residents and staff and participating in vaccine distribution programs, CMS said in the rule, but “participation in these efforts is not universal and we are concerned that many groups at higher risk of infection, specifically residents and clients of (long-term care) facilities and (intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities), are not able to access COVID-19 vaccination.”