The Netherlands will first vaccinate care workers at nursing homes.
How well you protect vulnerable residents with this depends to a large extent on the characteristics of the vaccine used and the willingness to vaccinate.
The 269,000 care workers in nursing homes are among the first to qualify for a corona vaccine.
What is the point of vaccinating precisely this group?
Frits Rosendaal, professor of clinical epidemiology at the LUMC, explains that with this vaccination strategy you try to prevent the coronavirus from entering a nursing home.
Many people live there who have a high chance of developing serious complaints or dying from the effects of the virus.
Like visiting relatives, health care workers can bring the coronavirus into a nursing home.
For example, care workers can become infected in their family, while shopping or playing sports and subsequently infect a resident in the nursing home.
Once the coronavirus is in a nursing home, it can often spread easily, according to Rosendaal.
"For example, many people with dementia live in nursing homes. These people are often difficult to isolate and it is not always easy to explain to them that they have to keep their distance."
We don't know yet whether the vaccine will prevent spread?
How well the vaccination of the care staff will help to keep the corona virus out of nursing homes depends on several things, according to Rosendaal.
"It matters, for example, how many nursing home employees are vaccinated and how well the vaccine prevents people from spreading the corona virus."
"We now know that the vaccine that will be used first, the Pfizer vaccine, offers more than 90 percent protection against the disease caused by the coronavirus. Whether the vaccine is just as good at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, let us know. We don't yet. But it is almost certain that the vaccine reduces the chance that people will spread the virus, if you don't get sick, you won't cough or sniffle either. "
If the vaccine offers less protection against the spread of the virus than against disease, it will still prevent outbreaks.
Even if the effectiveness in this respect is, for example, 70 percent, says Rosendaal.
The professor explains this on the basis of a calculation example.
"Suppose that everyone who works in a nursing home currently has a 1 percent chance of infecting a resident. With a vaccine, that chance could drop to 0.3 percent for every vaccinated employee."
You can calculate what this means for the chance that an outbreak will occur in a nursing home: suppose you have ten nursing homes with a hundred employees each.
Without vaccination you expect, based on these figures, that one employee in all ten nursing homes will infect a resident, with an outbreak as a possible consequence.
If all employees are vaccinated, you only expect an employee in three out of ten nursing homes to infect a resident.
The above example also shows that the usefulness of this vaccination strategy depends on the willingness of the healthcare workers to vaccinate.
If only a small number of employees are vaccinated, you will prevent employees from bringing the corona virus into the nursing home less often.
For example, the Pfizer vaccine is supposed to fight the coronavirus in your body
Wouldn't it be better to vaccinate the residents first?
Vaccinating nursing home employees can thus prevent outbreaks in nursing homes.
Nevertheless, the Health Council has recommended - if possible - first to vaccinate the residents of the nursing homes themselves and other vulnerable elderly people.
The main reason for this is that it directly protects people who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Rosendaal also says that vaccinating residents of nursing homes is a more direct and more secure way of protecting these people than vaccinating employees first.
Even if all employees are vaccinated, major outbreaks can still occur in some nursing homes.
Nevertheless, the professor is pleased that the care workers of nursing homes are first vaccinated.
"From a logistics point of view, vaccinating in nursing homes is a major challenge. This is partly due to the properties of the Pfizer vaccine, which has a limited shelf life outside the freezer. But it is also difficult, for example, to get permission for vaccination from elderly people with dementia. you may have to call the children first before you can vaccinate a resident with dementia. "