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Even Partial COVID-19 Vaccination Protects Nursing Home Residents

JAMA. 2021;325(18):1826. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.5968

A CDC analysis has shown that a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine protected medically vulnerable nursing home residents as well as it did general adult populations that were evaluated in other efficacy and effectiveness studies.

The analysis helps fill a data gap about vaccine effectiveness in this high-risk group—generally older, frail adults with underlying health conditions—who were left out of COVID-19 vaccine trials. Excluding older adults from the trials raised questions about how well nursing home residents would respond to vaccination.

By analyzing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s performance during a late January outbreak at 2 Connecticut skilled nursing facilities, investigators from the CDC and the Connecticut Department of Public Health provided real-world data about this vulnerable population. A review of 463 residents’ charts showed that the vaccine was 63% effective during the period that stretched from 14 days after their first shot until 7 days after their second.

“Even during a large disease outbreak in a long-term care setting, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provided protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection, including in older adults aged 65 years [or older] with a high prevalence of underlying medical conditions,” the authors wrote.

Waning COVID-19 cases as more residents and staff received second vaccinations made it impossible to assess vaccine effectiveness after 2 doses. Evidence from previous studies demonstrated greater protection among older adults after a second dose, suggesting that completing the 2-dose regimen may be particularly important to protect long-term care facility residents, the authors suggested.

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