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Study: Rates of new COVID-19 infections plummet at nursing homes after vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccinations are making a major difference at nursing homes, even when not all of the residents are inoculated, new research published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests.

People living in nursing homes have been vulnerable to the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, due to living in close quarters, and more than 132,000 residents have died of COVID-19, representing about one-third of the entire U.S. death toll.

The study looked at 20,000 people living at 280 nursing homes across 21 states. About 16,000 had received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, with 70 percent receiving both doses, and roughly 4,000 were unvaccinated. The researchers found that 4.5 percent of residents contracted COVID-19 after receiving their first dose of the vaccine, and 0.3 percent came down with the virus 14 days after receiving their second dose. Most of the cases were asymptomatic.

Among their fellow residents who did not get vaccinated, the rate of infection dropped from 4.3 percent to 0.3 percent, The New York Times reports. A majority of their cases were also asymptomatic. "Robust vaccine coverage among residents and staff, together with the continued use of face masks and other infection-control measures, is likely to afford protection for a small number of unvaccinated residents," the researchers wrote.