Authors of the broadest study yet linking staff COVID-19 vaccinations to lower resident death rates are urging policymakers to rethink their “stagnant” approach to booster shots.

A 10-percentage point increase in staff vaccinations delivered fewer weekly cases and deaths among residents after shots first became available, according to an analysis of more than 15,000 nursing homes published Dec. 29 in JAMA Network Open. Over a year, that would have meant 20,000 fewer  deaths, researchers estimated.

But staff-to-resident benefits waned as the omicron variant took hold in late 2021. Rules mandating that workers have updated COVID shots still don’t exist.

“As the pandemic evolves to include newer, more infectious strains of the virus, evolving policies in the form of extending mandates for booster doses for staff in nursing homes will be critical,” said co-author R. Tamara Konetzka, PhD.