Five nursing home institutions that were the first to receive vaccination on January 18, fully vaccinated most residents. But for all nursing homes, the corona measures will not change for the time being: the masks will remain on and the 1.5 meter distance will continue to apply.
The majority of the residents of the Zorgbalans, Cordaan, TanteLouise, Carint Reggeland and Opella institutions are protected, so why cannot the measures be abandoned? Cees Hertogh, professor of geriatric medicine and OMT member, emphasizes that it is very complicated to determine which measures can be scaled down and when.
“We do not expect residents to become ill or less ill after vaccination, but they may still be able to transmit the virus to others.” This means that non-vaccinated employees and visitors can still become ill.
First positive signs
Nursing home residents will be given the BioNTech / Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. From about seven days after the second injection, this offers more than 90 percent protection against covid-19, the disease caused by a corona infection. But it is not yet clear whether someone who has been vaccinated can still spread the virus unnoticed. Therefore, the same measures apply to people who have been vaccinated as to people who have not been vaccinated.
There are signs that the vaccination is having a beneficial effect. For example, residents became infected after the first and in some cases after the second injection, but they seemed to become less ill.
The number of new infections in nursing homes has also decreased in recent weeks, but it is unclear whether this can be attributed to the vaccination. It is too early to conclude that, Hertogh thinks. With his research group at the Amsterdam UMC, he will soon monitor 60,000 nursing home residents to determine the effect of vaccination.
Another six months of measures
The Zorgbalans institution has now vaccinated almost all 1200 residents, but some of the employees are still waiting for an injection. They are on the waiting list of the GGD awaiting a new stock of vaccines. Most visitors have not yet been vaccinated.
“We think we will be committed to measures such as keeping a distance and wearing mouth masks for at least six months. We can only think about phasing out when many more Dutch people have been vaccinated. And of course we follow the advice of the RIVM”, says a spokesperson.
In addition to the non-vaccinated employees and visitors, there is another problem. New people regularly come to live in nursing homes, permanently or for a short stay. And not all of them have been vaccinated. A high vaccination coverage within a house is good news, according to Hertogh, but the question is how you can maintain that when people come in from outside.
Waiting for group immunity?
“Nobody is hanging over the field with a helicopter view, so there is still too much uncertainty. It is known how many residents have been vaccinated per institution, but we do not always know about the employees,” says Hertogh. Employers are not allowed to ask employees whether they have been vaccinated or to register this according to privacy legislation.
“You don’t know about the visitors at all. Do you have to wait until there is an acceptable vaccination coverage nationwide?” A high vaccination rate in society, expected to be about 70 percent, would lead to group immunity. But that moment will probably not come until the autumn.
That takes too long for many people. That is why, next week, the OMT will discuss possible relaxation when all residents and most employees have had their second injection.