Do COVID-19 vaccinations work to prevent infections in nursing homes?


A: YES! The mRNA vaccines REALLY work, even in this high risk population.

A new study shows real-world success of mRNA vaccines in reducing infection among nursing home residents.

People with multiple chronic illnesses and older people are often not included in clinical trials. It can be difficult to understand how medical treatments tested in younger, healthy people will affect older people and those with multiple health conditions. People receiving care in nursing homes are often older and experience multiple complex chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. Nursing home residents also experience a high rate of complications from COVID-19. A new study examined the number of new cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection among nursing home residents. The researchers tracked SARS-CoV-2 positive tests and symptoms in vaccinated and unvaccinated nursing home residents to determine how well COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work in this understudied, high risk population.

GOOD NEWS! The results show a reduction in COVID-19 infection and symptoms in nursing home residents who received mRNA vaccines. Among over 13,000 fully vaccinated residents, only 38 tested positive for COVID-19 more than 14 days after their second dose. Infection rates also fell among unvaccinated residents over the same time period, even in counties with high rates of COVID-19 community transmission. The majority of staff working at facilities included in this study were also vaccinated.

Bottom line: Vaccines work among nursing home residents, a high risk group who experienced significant loss of life and health complications in the current pandemic. The combination of high resident vaccination rates, relatively high staff vaccination rates in this cohort, and continued risk mitigation measures such as mask wearing and frequent testing were also protective of unvaccinated residents. We must continue to fund and support vaccination programs that target nursing home residents and staff as well as risk mitigation strategies like routine testing to prevent future COVID-19 outbreaks in this vulnerable population.

Those Nerdy Girls

Additional Reading

Incidence of SARS-CoV-2 among vaccinated and unvaccinated nursing home residents in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Elizabeth White and colleagues

Summary of above study in the New York Times

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