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SARS-CoV-2 infection risk among unvaccinated is negatively associated with community-level vaccination rates

By Oren Milman, Idan Yelin, Noga Aharony, Rachel Katz, Esma Herzel, Amir Ben-Tov, Jacob Kuint, Sivan Gazit, Gabriel Chodick, Tal Patalon, Roy Kishony

Posted 29 Mar 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.26.21254394

Mass vaccination has the potential to curb the current COVID-19 pandemic by protecting vaccinees from the disease and possibly lowering the chance of transmission to unvaccinated individuals. The high effectiveness of the widely-administered BNT162b vaccine in preventing not only the disease but also infection suggests a potential for a population-level effect, critical for disease eradication. However, this putative effect is difficult to observe, especially in light of highly fluctuating spatio-temporal epidemic dynamics. Here, analyzing vaccination records and test results collected during a rapid vaccine rollout for a large population from 223 geographically defined communities, we find that the rates of vaccination in each community are highly correlated with a later decline in infections among a cohort of under 16 years old which are unvaccinated. These results provide observational evidence that vaccination not only protects individual vaccinees but also provides cross-protection to unvaccinated individuals in the community.

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