Results highlight the importance of booster vaccinations not only for nursing home residents, but also for the general population, study author says.
A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, commonly referred to as the booster shot, can provide high levels of Omicron-specific immunity for nursing home residents and their caregivers, a new study says.
That’s particularly significant because the pandemic has hit U.S. nursing home residents especially hard, with a disproportionally large share of COVID-19 infection and mortality rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Data indicates that 153,445 nursing home residents and 2,405 staff have died of COVID as of June 6, according to the CDC.
COVID infected more than 1 million residents and more than 1 million staff, the CDC reports.
But high levels of Omicron-specific immunity can be achieved in nursing home residents and their caregivers with a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to new research from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in partnership with Brown University.
The findings were published in the journal eBioMedicine, part of The Lancet network.
Case Western researchers examined blood samples from 85 Ohio nursing home residents and 48 healthcare workers who received the booster to determine the level of neutralizing antibodies, which are protective proteins produced by the immune system in response to vaccination. The antibodies can be analyzed to determine the length of time it takes for immunity to decline.
Omicron-specific antibodies reached detectable levels in 86% of nursing home residents and 93% of healthcare workers after receiving the booster shot, compared to just 28% of nursing home residents and healthcare workers after the initial two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series, the study found. This high neutralization level occurred two weeks after the booster.
The results highlight the importance of booster vaccinations—not only for nursing home residents, but also for the general population, said David Canaday, lead study author and professor at the School of Medicine.
“There are tens of millions of community-dwelling older adults similar to the nursing home population but are living at home,” he said. “This data shows this group of frail, older adults with similar clinical and functional limitations would benefit immensely from a booster vaccination.”
“The data also shows that healthcare workers achieved a significant elevation in antibody levels after receiving a booster,” he said.
This new research builds on a previous study that showed nursing home residents and healthcare workers lose more than 80% of their COVID-19 immunity six months after the initial vaccine series.
The CDC now recommends a first booster dose for people age 5 and older after completing their primary COVID-19 series. A second booster shot is recommended for people at least 50 years old and for those at least age 12 who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.
Canaday and his research team have ongoing studies examining the responses to the second booster, including for nursing home residents.
“This data shows this group of frail, older adults with similar clinical and functional limitations would benefit immensely from a booster vaccination.”
— David Canaday, professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.
Nursing home residents have suffered a disproportionally large share of COVID-19 infection and mortality rates.
High levels of Omicron-specific immunity can be achieved with a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC recommends a first booster for people 5 and older, and a second booster for those 50 and over or for ages 12 and older who are immunocompromised.