Morrisey urges federal agency to end vaccine mandate for healthcare workers

Nov. 25—With a mandate still in place to require many health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, 22 states are pushing for it to end.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey wrote a letter last week in support of those states, which petitioned the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to repeal the interim vaccination rule.

"Every American has a right to work and mandates like this do nothing but impede that right," Morrisey said. "Placing restrictions on an individual's right to make informed decisions about whether to vaccinate for COVID-19 infringes upon their liberties and religious beliefs. The rule is inconsistent with America's liberty tradition and medical ethics."

CMS's interim rule requires "participating health care facilities to develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure that all staff are fully vaccinated for COVID-19."

Morrisey said it regulates more than 10 million health care workers and suppliers. Some 2.4 million of those were unvaccinated when the rule was issued, according to CMS estimates.

In November 2021, the rule was enacted by CMS but several lawsuits were filed, and the mandate was put on hold.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January 2022 CMS had the authority to impose the vaccination rule to make sure healthcare providers who care for Medicare and Medicaid patients protect their patients' health and safety.

Since that ruling, COVID cases and hospitalizations have declined dramatically.

For example, the seven-day average of new daily COVID cases reported in West Virginia hit 4,000 in late January 2022.

Last week, that average had fallen to 147.

Morrisey said the rule has contributed to staff shortages in healthcare facilities.

"Such mandates threaten to further burden the health care sector and patient well-being in West Virginia, where a large percentage of nursing home and other long-term care facilities are already facing worker shortages,"he said.

Morrisey's letter was addressed to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com