Low rates of COVID-19 vaccination among nursing home staff are linked with high rates of coronavirus illness and death among residents, even when residents have been vaccinated, a US study found.
Using national data from early June through late August 2021, researchers compared nursing homes with the highest and lowest percentages of vaccinated staff. In communities with high rates of COVID-19, homes with the lowest staff vaccination rates had more than twice as many residents develop COVID-19 and nearly three times as many residents die from it.
This was true regardless of vaccination rates among the residents and of other differences between the facilities, the researchers reported on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers estimated that if by mid-June all nursing homes had achieved the staff vaccination rates of the most vaccinated facilities – about 80% on average – then over the next 10 weeks there might have been 7,501 fewer COVID-19 cases among staff, 4,775 fewer cases among residents, and 703 fewer resident deaths from the virus.
The results “strongly suggest that a highly vaccinated staff is critical” for protecting nursing home residents from COVID-19, said study leader Brian McGarry of the University of Rochester in New York.