COVID-19 syringe and vaccine bottle on data surface.

COVID-19 vaccination rates among nursing home staff jumped 25 percentage points nationally thanks in no small part to a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services mandate imposed earlier this year.

From the time the CMS mandate for healthcare workers was first announced in August 2021 until after the compliance deadlines passed in March 2022, vaccination rates among nursing home staff increased from 63% to 88%, according to an analysis an the Kaiser Family Foundation that was released Monday. That’s a net 40% increase from the 63% starting point.

Researchers analyzed nursing home-level data from the federal government covering some 14,700 nursing homes, or about 97% of all nursing homes in the United States. As of March, 12% of nursing homes reported that 100% of workers were fully vaccinated, 39% had a better than 90% vaccination rate, and 49% had fewer than 90% who were fully vaccinated.

The share of facilities reporting universal staff vaccination rates ranged from 56% of facilities in Rhode Island to 0% of facilities in Wyoming. The share of facilities reporting near-universal rates of vaccination (91% to 99%) ranged from 82% of facilities in Connecticut to 16% of facilities in Oklahoma. Almost a quarter (24%) of nursing facilities reported vaccination rates between 81% to 90%, and roughly the same share (25%) reported staff vaccination rates of 80% or lower.

The analysts wrote that the CMS vaccine mandate has not fully addressed staffing shortages, “which may be attributable to variation in local economies and labor markets and could also be due to differences in the way in which nursing facilities define and report staff shortages.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation advocates for maximizing vaccination and booster rates among facility staff to “help protect against illness and death of residents and staff, and help maintain sufficient staffing levels.”

Although the Supreme Court ruled in January that the CMS vaccine could proceed, some states still question its legality. Cases in Texas and Florida were dismissed after the Supreme Court allowed the rule to take effect. 

Most recently, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming filed a petition Thursday with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The states again asked the court to review the constitutionality of the federal vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, and also questioned whether CMS properly followed the rulemaking process.