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August 4, 2023 COVID News

COVID

COVID Shots No Longer Required for Medicare Providers — But 100+ Colleges Still Mandating the Vaccines as House Launches Probe Into Federal Mandates

The U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic this week opened an investigation into the development and rollout of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as of Aug. 5 said it is no longer requiring the shots, even as 100+ colleges continue to mandate them.

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Less than one week after witnesses testified to the negative consequences of COVID-19 vaccine mandates during a hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) opened an investigation into the “unscientific” federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates and policies.

Wenstrup and subcommittee members requested access to all documents, communications and guidance used by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Department of Labor, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop and implement their mandates.

In letters to the departments, Wenstrup said, “We are investigating how the mandates came to inform Congressional action should there be a future pandemic.”

Wenstrup told the New York Post:

“The Biden Administration disregarded medical freedom, patient-physician relationships, and clear scientific standards to force a novel vaccine on millions of Americans without sufficient evidence to support their policies.”

CMS rescinds COVID vaccine mandates … sort of 

Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that effective Aug. 5, it would no longer require all Medicare and Medicaid providers and suppliers to mandate the COVID-19 vaccines for their staff as a prerequisite for participating in CMS programs.

The announcement overturned the agency’s Nov. 5, 2021, interim final rule requiring the vaccines. However, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic nonetheless is investigating why the agency mandated the vaccines in the first place.

In his letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Wenstrup called out CMS, which operates under HHS, for waiving the 60-day delay of publication in the Federal Register when it published the mandate. He also expressed concern over CMS’ admission the rule would cost private sector entities more than $158 million.

Meanwhile, the agency’s June 5 final rule lifting the mandate — triggered by the May 11 lifting of the federal vaccine mandate — includes some ambiguous language.

In its July 25 memo announcing the change, CMS said it “will not be enforcing the staff vaccination provisions” for all CMS provider types. As justification for ending the requirement, the agency cited “increased vaccine uptake, declining infection and death rates … increased instances of infection-induced immunity, public comments,” among other factors.

Yet according to its final rule, CMS said it plans to achieve a 100% staff vaccination rate among its service providers. And the agency still requires long-term care facilities “to provide education about COVID-19 vaccines and to offer COVID-19 vaccines to residents, clients, and staff.”

The ruling cites “quality measures” that include the reporting of the percentages of vaccinated patients and healthcare staff.

The CMS ruling states:

“Quality measures would provide a means to monitor COVID-19 vaccination rates among patients and health care personnel in multiple entities across the health system … public reporting of quality measures increases the involvement of leadership in quality improvement, creates a sense of accountability, helps to focus organizational priorities, supports transparency and provides a means of delivering important information to consumers.”

According to legal experts, these quality metrics are included in “various Medicare payment systems to reward providers meeting certain standards.”

The CMS memo says it will consider “good-faith efforts” to correct noncompliance, and that facilities with a plan to reach 100% vaccination “would not be subject to an enforcement action.”

More than 100 colleges and universities still requiring COVID shots

Although all federal mandates have been rescinded, more than 100 colleges and universities still require their students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to attend classes, according to data compiled across 1,209 four-year schools by the advocacy group No College Mandates (NCM).

NCM describes itself as a “group of concerned parents, doctors, nurses, professors, students and other college stakeholders working towards the common goal of ending COVID-19 vaccine mandates.”

The group told ABC News that the purpose of the data is to “assist families in the college search and to provide a bird’s-eye view of COVID vaccine policies.”

Of the institutions with COVID-19 vaccine requirements, 49 require students to have only their primary series of shot(s), 31 require primary shots plus one booster, 15 specifically require a bivalent vaccine, and 12 require either one bivalent shot or two or three monovalent shots.

According to COVID-19 policies outlined on some of these schools’ websites, staff and faculty are sometimes, but not always, required to be vaccinated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Aug. 31, 2022, deauthorized the original mRNA Pfizer and Moderna monovalent vaccines as a booster dose and on April 18 as a primary series dose.

The monovalent vaccine is no longer available and the bivalent vaccine is authorized only for emergency use.

According to NCM, mandates specifying a two-dose primary series or a booster dose “will need to be revised, as under the new FDA authorization effective April 18, 2023, currently unvaccinated people can only access a single bivalent dose, no booster and no additional dose.”

Harvard University, Johns Hopkins, Rutgers University, DePauw University, University of Pittsburgh and San Diego State University are among the schools still mandating COVID-19 vaccines for campus residents and students attending classes in person.

In August 2021, Children’s Health Defense sued Rutgers on behalf of 18 students challenging the school’s vaccine mandate.

The complaint states that in a free society:

“All people have the right to decide their own medical treatment — especially to decide what to inject into their bodies. And every person has the right to make that decision voluntarily, free from coercion by anyone, and to be fully informed of the benefits and especially the risks of that decision.”

After the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in September 2022 dismissed the lawsuit, a U.S. Court of Appeals in June heard arguments in an appeal. Attorney Julio C. Gomez told The Defender the court conducted a fair, inquisitive and thorough examination of both sides’ positions.

“We were very pleased with the judge’s understanding of the material and the issues,” he said. The appeals court has not yet issued a ruling.

NCM co-founder Lucia Sinatra told Fox News she has received “no clear answers” from college officials as to why some are still mandating students receive the vaccine to attend classes on campuses.

Sinatra said:

“We have tried to get through to administrators. We have tried to get through to students to push back on this very issue. We’re coming up against a brick wall.”

Schools generally respond with “boilerplate language” about how COVID-19 vaccines will protect the community, she added.

NCM publishes a companion list of 537 colleges that never mandated COVID-19 vaccines. Those schools include the University of Wisconsin, the University of Texas, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of North Carolina.

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