People in nursing homes are much more likely to die from Covid-19 if the staff caring for them remains largely unvaccinated, a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine find.
The research, from Harvard Medical School and the University of Rochester in New York, is based on data from 12,364 nursing homes – or 81% of those facilities in the United States – collected last summer as the delta variant spread across the country.
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In June, Covid vaccination rates among staff ranged widely, from 31% to 83%, according to the study.
When researchers looked at the impact on residents’ health through August, the effects, they said, were glaring.
Cases of Covid-19 among residents with staff with the lowest vaccination rates were almost double compared to facilities with the highest staff vaccination rates.
And Covid-related death rates among residents of facilities with low vaccination rates were nearly three times higher than those of facilities with the highest levels of staff immunization.
The discovery took place even when nursing home residents themselves were vaccinated against Covid, said Brian McGarry, one of the study’s authors.
âEven though residents are protected by their vaccinations, they still rely on an extra layer of protection from the staff,â said McGarry, assistant professor in the division of Geriatrics and Aging in the Department of Medicine at the University of Rochester. , noted.
The data used in the study came mainly from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The results of the study frustrated those caring for the elderly. By far, people over 65 accounted for the largest percentage of Covid-19 deaths in the United States
âWhere is the national outrage? Said Dr. Michael Wasserman, who heads the public policy committee of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine.
Wasserman said it is clear that people living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities continue to be infected, and, in turn, fall seriously ill, by staff caring for they day after day.
âWe know that nursing home personnel are a key vector for the transmission of the virus,â Wasserman said. Throughout the pandemic, he said, nursing home staff provided the majority of care for their long-term residents. Outer family members have been largely turned away due to Covid-19 protocols.
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Residents of nursing homes are among the most vulnerable to serious illnesses from Covid-19.
âBy definition, any illness is going to be more serious for them,â said Dr. James Powers, geriatrician at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville.
âThey can have diabetes, they can have heart disease,â he said. âThese predispose you to worse infections. “
This means that even in nursing homes where staff immunization rates are higher, residents remain at risk.
The delay in vaccination is forcing geriatricians like McGarry.
“It was such a sigh of relief when the vaccines were rolled out last December and January,” he said. “Nursing home residents were on the front lines, and we have all seen the number of cases and the number of deaths drop.”
Now, McGarry said, he and his colleagues are hoping enough safeguards are in place to curb the spread.
The idea is to keep nursing home residents “safe as community spread resumes, before Christmas and winter when viruses typically thrive.”