Nursing home residents will remain at a high risk of contracting COVID-19 if the average vaccination rate among employees remains around its current rate, according to a top federal scientist. 

“Even with highly effective boosters, the community transmission is high in our model,” said Rachel B. Slayton, Ph.D., an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“That suggests that there will still be COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, highlighting the need for continued infection prevention and control strategies,” Slayton added. 

Her comments came while presenting data Wednesday to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. She talked about the impact vaccination strategies have on nursing home residents and staff. 

The CDC model she was referring to showed COVID-19 cases in residents decline when staff immunization rates rose and residents received booster shots. It also revealed a reduction in symptomatic resident cases as staff vaccination rates increased. 

Nationwide, 64.4% of nursing home staff members per facility are vaccinated, on average, according to the latest federal data.

The presentation concluded that “maximizing COVID-19 vaccination coverage among staff remains a critical tool for preventing cases in nursing homes” and “community transmission remains a key driver of cases in nursing homes.” 

Slayton also warned that the magnitude of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness depends on staff vaccine coverage. The agency also concluded that “even with highly effective boosters, cases in nursing homes will persist when community transmission is high, highlighting the need for continued infection prevention and control strategies.”