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Brown University to study COVID-19 vaccines, boosters in nursing home residents

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Researchers at Brown University will study waning COVID-19 effectiveness among nursing home residents to further inform the country’s booster shot rollout. The two-year study, aimed to inform real-time policy decisions, was awarded $4.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The team is set to study the duration of protective immunity among 800-1,200 nursing home residents following vaccination or when administered a booster shot, when federally recommended to do so, given emerging COVID-19 variants, according to a news release. Researchers plan to share interim data with the CDC as it becomes available.

“Given rising case counts of the Delta variant, we need to know as soon as possible who needs a vaccine booster shot and when they need it,” Stefan Gravenstein, co-lead investigator on the project and a professor of geriatric medicine at Brown University, said in a statement. “This information on how specific immunity to SARS-CoV-2 infection declines with aging, disease and in long-term care residents is critically important for developing a booster strategy based on real-time data in this population.”

Gravenstein and a team of researchers’ recent preliminary findings noted a rise in breakthrough infections and outbreaks among nursing homes while reporting an over 85% decline in neutralizing antibody levels six months following vaccination with the Pfizer jab, regardless of prior infection, among nursing home residents and healthcare workers.

“Based on the rapid spread of the delta variant and reports of vaccine breakthrough in NH [nursing homes] and among younger community populations, boosting NH residents may be warranted,” a pre-print posted Aug. 20 reads.

Overall, Gravenstein said results thus far back the CDC’s recent recommendation for booster shots, planned to rollout in the coming weeks, pending FDA review. However, health officials have advised the White House that regulators need more time to review necessary data before approving a COVID-19 booster shot plan. 

The guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is that both agencies have so far only accumulated enough data to suggest that some individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine should get a booster shot. 

Fox News’ Peter Aitken contributed to this report.

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