New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows nursing home residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have received a booster dose are 10 times less likely to become infected than those who did not get a booster dose.
“As expected, nursing home residents who are unvaccinated have the highest weekly COVID-19 case rates, which increased from 3.4 to 8.8 per thousand nursing home residents between Oct. 31 to Dec. 5,” she said, noting that the agency was starting to see case increases for those who are fully vaccinated, which is “likely due to the waning of vaccine protection over time.”
“But the good news is that these data show that nursing home residents who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster dose have a 10 times lower rate of getting SARS-CoV-2 in comparison to those residents who have only received a primary vaccination series or are unvaccinated,” the Walensky said.
She noted that the data also shows case counts are increasing among unvaccinated residents and those who receive a primary series without a booster.
Comparatively, case rates are “stable and low” among those residents who have received an additional or booster dose.
“Taken together, these data emphasize the critical importance of boosters to optimize the protection of vaccines over time, and that when boosters are used, that protection works,” Walensky stated.
Sixty percent of eligible seniors and more than 55 million Americans have already received a booster, according to the agency.
“While we’ve made good progress, we know we have more work to do,” Walensky said. “CDC is working in close partnership with states, localities and providers across the country to expand access to boosters and to ensure that every state has access to the resources and support they need to protect those at highest risk, including residents of long-term care facilities.”
In November, Walensky endorsed expanded recommendations for booster shots to include all adults ages 18 years and older who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months after their second dose.
“After critical scientific evaluation, today’s unanimous decision carefully considered the current state of the pandemic, the latest vaccine effectiveness data over time, and review of safety data from people who have already received a COVID-19 primary vaccine series and booster,” Walensky said in a statement at the time. “Booster shots have demonstrated the ability to safely increase people’s protection against infection and severe outcomes and are an important public health tool to strengthen our defenses against the virus as we enter the winter holidays. Based on the compelling evidence, all adults over 18 should now have equitable access to a COVID-19 booster dose.”
Just days later, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern.” Since then, it has been detected in more than 35 states across the U.S.
On Wednesday, Fauci said booster vaccine regimens work against omicron – though scientists are continuously working to determine its transmissibility, severity and ability to evade immune protection and vaccines.
“At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster,” Fauci said.
“The message remains clear: If you are unvaccinated get vaccinated and, particularly in the arena of omicron, if you are fully vaccinated, get your booster shot,” he said.
“In this moment, as we continue to learn more and are guided by the evolving science, it’s important to remember that we have far more tools to fight this virus than we ever did just one year ago,” Walensky said.