Health officials in the U.S., Great Britain and the European Union say they are amazed at the quick decline in Covid-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes following the rollout of vaccines. “This is stunning,” said Dr. Gil Morris, medical director at the Ashland Assisted Living Center in central London.
“We expected a decline but the speed of the response to the vaccines is astounding. At our institutions and similar facilities in London, there has been a 70 percent drop in deaths since late December, when the first vaccines were given.”
The impact of vaccines on nursing home populations means the overall death toll from Covid-19 will soon begin a dramatic drop, Morris believes. “About 45 percent of Covid deaths worldwide occur among residents of elder care facilities and these are the people receiving vaccines first,” he says. “We are already beginning to see the effect in the UK, Europe and the U.S. and the reduction in fatalities will only accelerate as those in these facilities are inoculated.”
In the U.S., where more than half of nursing home residents have already been vaccinated, the death toll is also plummeting. According to Dr. Sunil Parikh, a Yale University epidemiologist, the decline is occurring even among nursing home residents who have had just the first of two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. “The overall result among this population in just two weeks is dramatic,” he says. “For the first time I’m beginning to see the end of the pandemic and it may arrive sooner than any of us expected.”
Dr. David Gifford, chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association, is another who admits surprise at the rapid decline in cases and deaths in long-term care facilities. “I’m almost at a loss for words at how amazing the decline has been in a short period of time,” he says.
More good news, Gifford says, is how well nursing home patients are tolerating the vaccine. “Because many in this population are very frail there was some worry about the side effects but we are seeing very few problems.”
The vaccine results in nursing homes are similar in Germany, France and Belgium, the European Union Medical Union office reports.
For Gifford, the promising results from vaccinating the most vulnerable population and the low incidence of side effects should serve as encouragement for people who have been hesitant to to take the vaccine. “As the word gets out, I think you will see many of those who had reservations get in line,” he said.
He added: “I understand that most hardcore anti-vaxxers and the anti-science crowd will not change their mind but I believe many of the others will.”