Nursing home residents, believed to be the most vulnerable to Covid-19, appear to be receiving significant protection from vaccinations, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In a letter to the editor, the researchers said the use of vaccinations appeared to protect even those living in nursing homes who hadn’t received a shot themselves. This finding suggests, according to researchers, that unvaccinated residents benefit from vaccinating others around them.
“These results demonstrate the real effectiveness of Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines” in an endangered nursing home population, “the researchers wrote.
The results are consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent guidelines on the protective benefits of vaccination. The federal agency, hoping to encourage widespread vaccination, has stated that those who are vaccinated are at greatly reduced risk, but significant risk remains for those who do not.
The population in nursing homes was one of the hardest hit populations during the pandemic. The virus spread rapidly among people with weakened immune systems in a confined space. More than 132,000 US nursing home residents have died during the pandemic, about a third of all deaths in the country from Covid-19.
The study, published Wednesday, was conducted on more than 20,000 residents from 280 nursing homes in 21 states. Of these, nearly 4,000 were not vaccinated and the rest received either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. About 70 percent received two doses.
The study looked at nursing home residents who had received at least one dose as of February 15 and those in the facilities who were present on the first day of their vaccination clinic and who had not yet been vaccinated as of March 31.
After receiving an initial dose, 4.5 percent of residents still got the virus, although most cases were asymptomatic, the researchers wrote. Of those who received the second dose, only 0.3 percent got the virus after 14 days.
The benefit was transferred to those in the same nursing homes who were not vaccinated. Your infection rate fell from 4.3 percent to 0.3 percent. Most infections were asymptomatic for all groups; and the rate of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections decreased over time.
“Robust vaccine coverage among residents and staff, as well as continued use of face masks and other infection control measures are likely to provide protection for a small number of unvaccinated residents,” the researchers write.