A new study provides the first real-world evidence that COVID-19 vaccinations in nursing homes are effective at preventing cases and deaths.
It also may validate the federal decision to prioritize these settings for shots, according to the research arm of the American Health Care Association.
The study was conducted in 2,501 nursing homes from the first 17 states to hold vaccine clinics as part of the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long‐Term Care Program. Following these first clinics, a decline in new resident cases and deaths from SARS-CoV-2 and decreased cases among staff were associated with delayed vaccine effect — protection against the virus that develops seven to 14 days after immunization, investigators said.
The Pfizer – BioNTech mRNA vaccine was the shot in use at the time.
The decreases corresponded to what would be the expected drop in cases and deaths due to an effective vaccine when compared to facilities that held their clinics later, according to lead author Marsida Domi, MPH, from the Center for Health Policy and Evaluation in Long-Term Care.
By analyzing the association of vaccine timing and incidence of cases and deaths, the researchers were able to show that the declines were indeed due to the shots — independent of other potential contributing factors, Domi and fellow investigators said.
Results were controlled for county rate of COVID‐19, facility bed size, urban location, racial and ethnic census data, and the number of registered nurses. Some of these factors also appeared to have an independent effect on case rates. Facilities with fewer than 50 certified beds and high nurse staffing per resident day had relatively fewer resident and staff COVID-19 cases. Notably, higher Hispanic non‐white resident census also was associated with fewer resident cases — contrary to early pandemic research findings, the researchers reported.
“This data is extremely encouraging and shows that the vaccines are working,” said Domi, a senior research analyst at AHCA/NCAL. The results have positive implications for quality of life in nursing homes as the pandemic continues, she added.
“Our findings support the changing guidance on visitations, dining and activities, which is critical for the wellbeing of residents,” she said.
The study’s results are consistent with another recent finding that one dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine among healthcare workers is 80% effective for preventing infections. The results also track with real-world studies from Israel. These revealed a substantial decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the general population in the weeks following that country’s initial vaccine rollout.
While the current study may support vaccine efficacy against infections, Domi urged further research to confirm that the shots also reduce transmission among nursing home residents and staff.
Full findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.