Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among Belgian nursing home residents and staff during the primary COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
Meyers E., De Rop L., Deschepper E., Duysburgh E., De Burghgraeve T., Van Ngoc P., Digregorio M., Delogne S., Coen A., De Clercq N., Buret L., Coenen S., De Sutter A., Scholtes B., Verbakel JY., Cools P., Heytens S.
BACKGROUND: Nursing home residents (NHR) and staff have been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and were therefore prioritised in the COVID-19 vaccination strategy. However, frail older adults, like NHR, are known to have decreased antibody responses upon vaccination targeting other viral antigens. OBJECTIVES: As real-world data on vaccine responsiveness, we assessed the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among Belgian NHR and staff during the primary COVID-19 vaccination campaign. METHODS: In total, we tested 1629 NHR and 1356 staff across 69 Belgian NHs for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 IgM/IgG antibodies using rapid tests. We collected socio-demographic and COVID-19-related medical data through questionnaires. Sampling occurred between 1 February and 24 March 2021, in a randomly sampled population that received none, one or two BNT162b2 vaccine doses. RESULTS: We found that during the primary vaccination campaign with 59% of the study population fully vaccinated, 74% had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Among fully vaccinated individuals only, fewer residents tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies (77%) than staff (98%), suggesting an impaired vaccine-induced antibody response in the elderly, with lowest seroprevalences observed among infection naïve residents. COVID-19 vaccination status and previous SARS-CoV-2 infection were predictors for SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity. Alternatively, age ≥ 80 years old, the presence of comorbidities and high care dependency predicted SARS-CoV-2 seronegativity in NHR. CONCLUSION: These findings highlight the need for further monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 immunity upon vaccination in the elderly population, as their impaired humoral responses could imply insufficient protection against COVID-19. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study was retrospectively registered on ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT04738695).