Background: After an outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 Beta variant in the district of Schwaz/Austria, vaccination with Comirnaty vaccine (BNT162b2 mRNA, BioNTech-Pfizer) had been offered to all adult inhabitants (≥ 16 years) in March 2021. This made Schwaz one of the most vaccinated regions in Europe at that time (70% of the adult population took up the offer). In contrast, all other Austrian districts remained with low vaccine coverage. Aim: We studied whether this rapid mass vaccination campaign provided indirect protection to unvaccinated individuals such as children (< 16 years) living in the same district. Methods: To study the effect of the campaign we used two complementary approaches. We compared infection rates among the population of children (< 16 years) in Schwaz with (i) the child population from similar districts (using the synthetic control method), and (ii) with the child population from municipalities along the border of Schwaz not included in the campaign (using an event study approach). Results: Before the campaign, we observed very similar infection spread across the cohort of children in Schwaz and the control regions. After the campaign, we found a significant reduction of new cases among children of -64.5% (95%-CI: -82.0 to -30.2%) relative to adjacent border municipalities (using the event study model). Employing the synthetic control method, we observed a significant reduction of -42.8% in the same cohort. Conclusion: Our results constitute novel evidence of an indirect protection effect from a group of vaccinated individuals to an unvaccinated group.
|State||Published - 1 Sep 2022|