Mathematical Modeling to Inform Vaccination Strategies and Testing Approaches for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Nursing Homes

Clin Infect Dis. 2022 Mar 1;74(4):597-603. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciab517.


Background: Nursing home residents and staff were included in the first phase of coronavirus disease 2019 vaccination in the United States. Because the primary trial endpoint was vaccine efficacy (VE) against symptomatic disease, there are limited data on the extent to which vaccines protect against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and the ability to infect others (infectiousness). Assumptions about VE against infection and infectiousness have implications for changes to infection prevention guidance for vaccinated populations, including testing strategies.

Methods: We use a stochastic agent-based Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious (Asymptomatic/Symptomatic)-Recovered model of a nursing home to simulate SARS-CoV-2 transmission. We model 3 scenarios, varying VE against infection, infectiousness, and symptoms, to understand the expected impact of vaccination in nursing homes, increasing staff vaccination coverage, and different screening testing strategies under each scenario.

Results: Increasing vaccination coverage in staff decreases total symptomatic cases in the nursing home (among staff and residents combined) in each VE scenario. In scenarios with 50% and 90% VE against infection and infectiousness, increasing staff coverage reduces symptomatic cases among residents. If vaccination only protects against symptoms, and asymptomatic cases remain infectious, increased staff coverage increases symptomatic cases among residents. However, this is outweighed by the reduction in symptomatic cases among staff. Higher frequency testing-more than once weekly-is needed to reduce total symptomatic cases if the vaccine has lower efficacy against infection and infectiousness, or only protects against symptoms.

Conclusions: Encouraging staff vaccination is not only important for protecting staff, but might also reduce symptomatic cases in residents if a vaccine confers at least some protection against infection or infectiousness.

Keywords: COVID-19; nursing homes; vaccine efficacy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Nursing Homes
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • United States
  • Vaccination