HOUSTON (Nov. 5, 2021) — To assure compliance with an emergency regulation issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requiring COVID-19 vaccination of healthcare workers, Harris Health System is now requiring all workforce members to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.
“Our rationale is simple — we want to keep our patients and workforce safe, and the truth is we are all safer when everyone is vaccinated,” says Esmaeil Porsa, MD, president and CEO, Harris Health System. "Guided by our values and focused on quality and patient safety, I'm enthusiastic about better protecting our patients and workforce members by requiring this proven, safe and effective vaccination.”
The newly adopted policy follows a similar requirement that all employees be immunized against other vaccine-preventable diseases, including influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis and others. The mandate was made possible by the system’s Board of Trustees adopting a resolution that gives Harris Health’s CEO the authority to mandate and enforce the measure requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all workforce members.
In a Sept. 15 communication to staff, Porsa shared that the COVID-19 vaccination would become mandatory for the Harris Health System workforce in the very near future and that, “the goal is 100% vaccination of all Harris Health System workforce members,” before the CMS required deadline of Jan. 4, 2022.
The new vaccine requirement applies to all Harris Health workforce members, allied health, nurses, therapists, physicians, administrative and support staff, contract workers and volunteers.
The updated policy and its enforcement was influenced by the interim final rule issued by CMS, which expands emergency regulations requiring vaccinations for nursing home workers to include hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, home health agencies and others, as a condition for participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
The regulatory decision was based on the continued spread of the virus in health care settings, especially in parts of the U.S. with higher incidence of COVID-19.
”As a respected and trusted healthcare leader, it is incumbent upon us as an organization to ensure we are doing everything in our power to protect the health of our community, our patients and our staff,” Porsa adds.
Harris Health staff remain able to submit a request for an applicable medical or religious exemption that is carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Studies have shown the vaccine is safe and as much as 95% protective against the original SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.
As of Nov. 1, 79% of Harris Health’s more than 10,000 employees and medical staff have received the vaccine.