Background: In clinical trials, several SARS-CoV-2 vaccines were shown to reduce risk of severe COVID-19 illness. Local, population-level, real-world evidence of vaccine effectiveness is accumulating. We assessed vaccine effectiveness for community-dwelling New York City (NYC) residents using a quasi-experimental, regression discontinuity design, leveraging a period (January 12-March 9, 2021) when ≥ 65-year-olds were vaccine-eligible but younger persons, excluding essential workers, were not.
Methods: We constructed segmented, negative binomial regression models of age-specific COVID-19 hospitalization rates among 45-84-year-old NYC residents during a post-vaccination program implementation period (February 21-April 17, 2021), with a discontinuity at age 65 years. The relationship between age and hospitalization rates in an unvaccinated population was incorporated using a pre-implementation period (December 20, 2020-February 13, 2021). We calculated the rate ratio (RR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for the interaction between implementation period (pre or post) and age-based eligibility (45-64 or 65-84 years). Analyses were stratified by race/ethnicity and borough of residence. Similar analyses were conducted for COVID-19 deaths.
Results: Hospitalization rates among 65-84-year-olds decreased from pre- to post-implementation periods (RR 0.85, 95% CI: 0.74-0.97), controlling for trends among 45-64-year-olds. Accordingly, an estimated 721 (95% CI: 126-1,241) hospitalizations were averted. Residents just above the eligibility threshold (65-66-year-olds) had lower hospitalization rates than those below (63-64-year-olds). Racial/ethnic groups and boroughs with higher vaccine coverage generally experienced greater reductions in RR point estimates. Uncertainty was greater for the decrease in COVID-19 death rates (RR 0.85, 95% CI: 0.66-1.10).
Conclusion: The vaccination program in NYC reduced COVID-19 hospitalizations among the initially age-eligible ≥ 65-year-old population by approximately 15% in the first eight weeks. The real-world evidence of vaccine effectiveness makes it more imperative to improve vaccine access and uptake to reduce inequities in COVID-19 outcomes.
Keywords: CI, confidence interval; COVID-19; COVID-19, coronavirus disease 2019; DOHMH, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Epidemiology; NYC, New York City; Public Health; RR, rate ratio; SARS-CoV-2; SARS-CoV-2, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; Surveillance; Vaccines.