Nursing homes that completed its first vaccine clinic saw COVID-19 cases decrease at a faster rate when compared to facilities that had yet to administer any doses, according to a new, first-of-its-kind study. 

The analysis released Thursday by the Center for Health Policy Evaluation in Long-Term Care revealed that vaccinated nursing homes saw a 48% decline in new resident cases three weeks after their first clinic. In comparison, non-vaccinated facilities located in the same county saw a 21% decline.

The report also found new staff cases declined by 33% in vaccinated facilities, compared to 18% in non-vaccinated nursing homes. 

The study looked at 797 nursing homes that conducted their first vaccination clinic between Dec. 18 and 27, 2020, and compared them to facilities in the same county (a total of 1,709 facilities) that had yet to conduct a clinic. The analysis is the first to look at the relationship between the COVID-19 vaccines and spread in long-term care, according to researchers. 

Investigators say the findings suggest transmission may decline within three weeks after receiving the first dose of the vaccine. Though the data is encouraging, researchers stressed the need to see if similar trends after first-week clinics have been seen in other studies. 

David Gifford, M.D., chief medical officer at AHCA and NCAL.

“If verified with additional data, this could expedite the reopening of long-term care facilities to visitors, which is vital to residents’ health and wellbeing,” said David Gifford, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living. The CHPE is a research division under AHCA/NCAL. 

Investigators added that further evaluations will be needed to determine the need for “restrictive policies intended to prevent spread, such as limits on visitors, communal dining, group activities and community outings.” 

“Given the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on long term care residents, we must continue to prioritize vaccinating the elderly in these settings,” Gifford added.