Increased COVID vaccination in nursing home staff cut cases, deaths


Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

By Lisa Schnirring

A study of 15,042 US nursing homes found that before the Omicron variant wave, an increase in staff COVID-19 vaccination with the primary series resulted in fewer cases among residents and staff and fewer deaths in residents. Researchers from the University of Chicago detailed their findings today in JAMA Network Open.

They note that so far, 2.16 million cases have been reported in nursing home residents and staff, with nearly 155,000 of them fatal. Though nursing home settings were prioritized for the first doses of the vaccine, uptake was lower in staff than in residents. Data on the effectiveness of a federal mandate has been weak, and the researchers note that more information is needed to guide ongoing policies on staff vaccination.

For their longitudinal cohort study, the team looked at data on COVID-19 outcomes in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes between May 30, 2021, and Jan 30, 2022. The facilities covered in the study report COVID-19 data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and passed data quality checks as part of the National Healthcare Safety Network.

Their analysis revealed that before the Omicron period, increasing weekly staff vaccination rates by 10 percentage points was associated with 0.13 fewer weekly COVID-19 cases per 1,000 residents, 0.02 fewer weekly deaths per 1,000 residents, and 0.03 fewer weekly staff cases. However, when they looked at just the period that included the Omicron wave, they didn’t see a link between increasing staff vaccination rates and fewer adverse outcomes.

Though the original vaccine campaign in nursing homes brought down cases and deaths, and the vaccine mandate lifted vaccination levels, policies going forward cannot remain stagnant and should evolve to include additional booster doses, the group said. “As the pandemic evolves, staff vaccination mandates need to evolve as well,” they wrote.