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The Vaccination Threshold for SARS-CoV-2 Depends on the Indoor Setting and Room Ventilation

By Alex Mikszewski, Luca Stabile, Giorgio Buonanno, Lidia Morawska

Posted 29 Jul 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.28.21261300

Background: Effective vaccines are now available for SARS-CoV-2 in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there remains significant uncertainty surrounding the necessary vaccination rate to safely lift occupancy controls in public buildings and return to pre-pandemic norms. The aim of this paper is to estimate setting-specific vaccination thresholds for SARS-CoV-2 to prevent sustained community transmission using classical principles of airborne contagion modeling. We calculated the airborne infection risk in three settings, a classroom, prison cell block, and restaurant, at typical ventilation rates, and then the expected number of infections resulting from this risk at varying levels of occupant susceptibility to infection. Results: We estimate the vaccination threshold for control of SARS-CoV-2 to range from a low of 40% for a mechanically ventilation classroom to a high of 85% for a naturally ventilated restaurant. Conclusions: If vaccination rates are limited to a theoretical minimum of approximately two-thirds of the population, enhanced ventilation above minimum standards for acceptable air quality is needed to reduce the frequency and severity of SARS-CoV-2 superspreading events in high-risk indoor environments.

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