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UH, Cleveland Clinic halt vaccine policy for caregivers after judge blocks vaccine mandate

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 8:40 AM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 18:31:25-05

CLEVELAND — After a federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for healthcare workers at facilities that received funding from Medicare and Medicaid, University Hospitals said unless there is a further legal action, caregivers may continue to provide patient care services regardless of their vaccination status.

In a statement sent Thursday afternoon, Cleveland Clinic also said they are "pausing the implementation of our COVID-19 vaccine policy," but are putting into place additional safety requirements for unvaccinated employees, including periodic testing for those providing direct care to patients.

University Hospitals released the following statement regarding the court injunction that temporarily suspends the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services vaccine mandate:

University Hospitals has been moving to implement the COVID-19 vaccine mandate required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In light of the federal court injunction issued Nov. 30 that temporarily blocks CMS from enforcing the mandate, come Jan. 4, unless there is further legal action, caregivers may continue to provide patient care services regardless of their vaccination status.

Even though it is not a condition of employment at this time and CMS deadlines do not apply while the injunction remains in place, we continue asking our caregivers, in clinical and nonclinical positions, to get vaccinated or to seek an accommodation. We believe, consistent with the scientific consensus, that COVID-19 vaccines are the most effective way to protect our caregivers, patients and community. The overwhelming majority of our caregivers are vaccinated. We are grateful to our caregivers for their service.

Cleveland Clinic's complete statements reads:

A federal court recently issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily blocking enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine federal mandate by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). That rule is now on hold.

In light of these developments, we are pausing the implementation of our COVID-19 vaccine policy, which required all employees and those who provide services with us to either receive the COVID-19 vaccine or an approved exemption with accommodations. However, to further strengthen our protection of employees and patients, we will put in place additional safety requirements for employees who are unvaccinated, including periodic testing for those providing direct clinical care.

As a health system, we continue to strongly encourage all employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and we are proud that the majority of our employees are already vaccinated.

Prior to the judge's decision, University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic were requiring all employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Jan. 4, 2022, if they wanted to stay employed unless there was a medical or religious exemption.

Sharona Hoffman, a professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, said despite UH’s choice, the injunction really doesn’t change things for private employers, like hospital systems.

"The only thing that has changed is that it's not a federal requirement at the moment, but private employers can certainly proceed as they have in many established mandates long before the federal government stepped in," said Hoffman.

Hoffman said things will not change for employees unless they work for an employer that's suspending its policy, like UH.

"The fight right now is just about whether the federal government has the authority to issue these mandates," said Hoffman.

In a statement, MetroHealth said it's not making any changes to its existing vaccine policy.

Summa Health released a statement saying the COVID-19 vaccine was added to its vaccination policy in August as a condition of employment prior to the federal mandate being announced. The statement goes on to say the policy is at 100% compliance across the organization and there aren't any plans to make changes.

Akron Children's also released a statement about the status of its vaccination policy:

Akron Children’s Hospital notified employees on Nov. 10 of a change in its policy regarding its COVID-19 vaccine requirement. In response to the federal government’s rule that all health care workers in the United States be vaccinated by Jan. 4, Akron Children’s removed the option of being tested regularly for the virus. Our target date was to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 with either the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” said Lisa Aurilio, chief operating officer. “Now that a federal judge has placed a stay on the CMS mandate, Akron Children’s has decided to continue on course for vaccination but has extended the deadline until January 11 to allow for a bit more time for employees to schedule and receive their vaccine.”

  • Vaccine clinics for employees still in need of their COVID-19 vaccination are being offered on campus in the next few weeks.
  • Akron Children’s has accepted documentation from employees requesting exemption to the vaccine based on religious or medical reasons. Those exemption requests are being processed and denials or approved exemptions will be communicated with those employees. Accommodation for exemptions will be testing at least weekly for those employees coming to any clinical or administrative part of our enterprise.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also issued a statement regarding the injunction:

This injunction was issued on a mandate by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and it is different than the directive that applies to VA employees. VA employees fall under the vaccination mandate for all federal employees per Executive Order (EO) 14043.

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