Covid-19 vaccines have been found to be both protective against infections and effective in reducing the severity and number of deaths among residents, according to a recent study on vaccinations in nursing home settings from Brown University researchers. Published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the study offers a positive outlook for the future of the hard-hit industry.
“This article provides evidence of real-world effectiveness of SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) vaccinations in the vulnerable nursing home population which has borne a disproportionate share of SARS-CoV-2 morbidity and mortality,” wrote the authors of the study, which was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
“This evidence supports efforts to begin resuming family visitation and lessen other restrictions in nursing homes.”
Specifically, the authors noted that “the vaccination of nursing home residents has reduced the morbidity and mortality” of Covid-19 in the vulnerable population. “Vaccinations in nursing homes have also “contributed meaningfully to a substantial reduction in incident cases,” they added.
“Hopefully, this will make it possible for nursing homes to begin controlled efforts to open up to family visitation and alleviate other restrictions, thus reversing the social isolation which has become virtually universal during the pandemic,” the authors wrote.
Other observers have shared the researchers’ hopeful tone. Writing an assessment of the research that also examined two other positive studies, Joseph G. Ouslander MD, AGSF and Debra Saliba MD, MPH, AGSF hailed the arrival of “some good news” after a year that saw many nursing home “residents, staff, and families have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Study Shows Effectiveness of COVID-19 Vaccinations in Nursing Home Settings
The study was conducted using resident-level data from Genesis Healthcare, the largest nursing home provider in the United States (and the parent company of CareerStaff Unlimited). The researchers matched pair analysis of 280 nursing homes across 21 states — those with initial vaccine clinics between December 18, 2020 and January 2, 2021, and those that did so between January 3 and 18, 2021.
After just one week, early-vaccinated facilities showed “a predicted 2.5 fewer incident SARS-CoV-2 infections per 100 at-risk residents per week (95% CI: 1.2–4.0) compared with what would have been expected based on the experience of the late vaccinated facilities,” the authors wrote. “The rates remained significantly lower for several weeks.”
One week after their initial vaccine clinics, facilities with earlier clinics had 2.5 fewer new Covid-19 infections per 100 at-risk residents than expected. By the period of five to eight weeks after the initial vaccine clinic, “early vaccinated facilities had a predicted 1.1 to 3.8 fewer hospitalizations and/or deaths per 100 infected residents per day, averaged by week than expected.”
And cumulatively over seven weeks, “earlier vaccinated facilities had 5.2 fewer infections per 100 at-risk residents and 5 fewer hospitalizations and/or deaths per 100 infected residents than expected without vaccinations,” the authors added.
Study Offers Hope for Hard-Hit Nursing Homes
What does all this mean? For the nursing home industry, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, it’s an indicator that conditions are indeed safer because of the vaccine — and that they will be even more so as vaccinations continue.
“We found that among the thousands of residents in facilities that were vaccinated early, the incidence of new SARS-CoV-2 infections was significantly lower than would have been the case had the vaccinations occurred later,” as the researchers noted.
“A similar pattern, although delayed by over a month, was observed for the composite outcome of hospitalization or death among residents with confirmed infection. These reductions are clinically important and show the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing new cases and reducing severe cases of COVID-19.”
Ouslander and Saliba were similarly impressed: “These findings demonstrate the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines in reducing the incidence of asymptomatic and symptomatic in [nursing homes] with access to the vaccine,” they write, “which should be coupled with adequate personal protective equipment, staffing, and intensive infection control education and policies.”
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