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Highlights | COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness for healthcare workers

  • UW Medicine was one of 33 sites to participate in a nationwide study on COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness for healthcare workers.
  • Fully vaccinated healthcare workers reduce their risk of getting sick with COVID-19 by 94%.

As the fight against COVID-19 continues, there is encouraging news for healthcare workers. A recent vaccine effectiveness study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that fully vaccinated healthcare workers reduce their risk of getting sick with COVID-19 by 94%.

The study, called Project PREVENT (PReventing Emerging Infections through Vaccine EffectiveNess Training), evaluated how effective mRNA vaccines are for healthcare workers at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 through patient interactions.

UW Medicine is one of 33 healthcare systems participating in the multicenter study, which represents more than 500,000 healthcare workers across 25 states.

“The results of the study are what we were hoping and expecting to find,” says Daniel Henning, MD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the UW School of Medicine and UW Medicine site investigator for Project PREVENT. “Fully vaccinated people have robust protection against symptomatic COVID-19. With 94% vaccine effectiveness, it’s encouraging that vaccinations are protecting healthcare employees.”

Research collaboration

Identifying participants and collecting data was a collaboration between the Department of Emergency Medicine and Employee Health Services. Henning and emergency medicine team members Layla Anderson, Megan Fuentes, Christine Crider, Kyle Steinbock and Thomas Paulsen joined together with employee health services team members Allison Zelikoff, RN-BC; Kathy Strand, RN; Kathleen Mertens, DNP, MPH, RN; John Lynch, MD;  and Seth Cohen, MD, to help with data collection.

Employees tested for COVID-19 through Employee Health Services were invited to participate in the study. Thirty-one participants from across UW Medicine signed up. They completed an online survey to report their symptoms, personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, work location and other considerations that may have factored into their likelihood of contracting COVID-19. The UW Medicine research team reviewed and submitted the data to the CDC.

“It was critical to take a look at how vaccines work in a real-world population,” says Henning. “Thank you to the people who took the time to participate and help us better understand how vaccinations are working.”

Henning says the analysis will continue as knowledge of the vaccine evolves. He urges employees who get tested for COVID-19 to opt into future data collection to increase understanding of the long-term durability of the vaccine. 

Boosting vaccine confidence

Henning emphasizes continued use of proper PPE, handwashing and physical distancing to prevent COVID-19. However, the results of the study provide cautious optimism that the COVID-19 vaccine is an effective way to combat the virus.

“As someone who works clinically, it makes me much more confident and comfortable walking into a patient’s room where it’s not certain what that patient may be bringing with them, whether they’re symptomatic with COVID-19 or not,” says Henning. “For those people who are vaccinated, you should take comfort in the fact that you are protected. For those who aren’t yet vaccinated, the study has shown us that the vaccine is an effective tool to keep yourself safe.”