COVID-19 vaccination prevented infection in 10% of NHS health workers and reduced absenteeism by almost 70%.
The rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccines from December 2020 has prevented infection and reduced virus-related absences for patient-focused NHS hospital staff in England during the second wave of the pandemic during the second wave of the pandemic. The BMJ.
Another study found that both the Pfizer BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines provided strong protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and admissions for healthcare workers. Researchers hope these findings can be used as guidance for further prevention and control measures.
The study authors compared the efficacy of the Pfizer BioNTech and the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines against infection in health and social workers in England using data from the research platform OpenSAFELY. The 317,341 participants were vaccinated between January 4, 2021 and February 28, 2021.
The results showed strong protection against both vaccines with no substantial differences between the 2 vaccines in infection rates or COVID-19-related hospitalization and admission. These findings provide insight into SARS-CoV-2 infection in health care professionals and social workers.
Health workers were among the first groups to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination as of December 2020. While primary care workers were prioritized during the rollout, coverage varied between groups of health workers, potentially leading to differences in exposure and protection across the workforce.
In the other study, researchers examined the rate, risk factors and impact of vaccines on SARS-CoV-2 infection in susceptible hospital health workers during England’s second wave from September 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. They analyzed data from the SARS-CoV-2 Immunity and Reinfection Evaluation (SIREN) study of 18,283 clinical, support and administrative staff with no evidence of previous infection recruited from 105 NHS hospital trusts in England.
Participants completed a survey about their demographic, household, and occupational characteristics when they enrolled. Subsequent questionnaires were completed every 2 weeks, including information as to whether they had been vaccinated.
PCR tests were taken every 2 weeks and antibody tests every month during the study period. Researchers found that 13% (2353) of participants became infected during the second wave, taking into account demographic, household and occupational factors.
According to the study authors, infections peaked in late December 2020 and then declined from January 2021, in line with rapid vaccination coverage among health professionals and a national lockdown.
Multiple factors were found to increase the likelihood of second wave infection: being under 25 years of age, living in a household of 5 or more people, frequent exposure to patients with COVID-19, working in an emergency department or clinical ward setting, and being a health assistant.
Time to first vaccination was found to be strongly associated with infection. Every day without vaccination increased a participant’s chance of infection by 2%.
Simulations of mathematical models indicated that an additional 10% of all patient-centered hospital health workers would have been infected if rapid vaccination coverage had not been achieved by the rollout. In addition, according to the study, staff absenteeism due to COVID-19 could have been 69% higher without the rollout.
The authors noted limitations of the study. Due to the observational nature of the study, the cause could not be determined. Another limitation was the lack of detail required to examine variations in hospital infection prevention and control policies.
However, the authors argue that SIREN is a large study well positioned to investigate the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in hospital staff.
This study “strengthens the importance of vaccination among health professionals during a significant wave of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in England,” they wrote.
“A better understanding of transmission dynamics among health professionals, particularly depending on their role and environment, will support the confidence of the NHS in protecting their staff and patients from SARS-CoV-2 infection and potentially other seasonal winter viruses,” concluded the authors.
COVID vaccines have prevented infection in 10% of patient-centered healthcare staff during the second wave. EurekAlert. news item. July 20, 2022. Accessed July 22, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/959208