A University of Bristol study has highlighted the potential of vaccination and asymptomatic testing to significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission in university environments

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A new preprint modelling study, published on MedRxiv, suggests that high levels of vaccination, alongside asymptomatic testing using lateral flow tests (LFTs), could significantly reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in universities.

Universities present a unique environment for transmission of infections, owing to a predominantly young population, high-density accommodation, high degrees of socialisation, and mass migrations of students at the beginning and end of terms. Hence, a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission in university settings remains a key public health goal.

Researchers at the University of Bristol adapted an existing stochastic compartmental model of COVID-19 transmission in a university setting to account for vaccination and waning immunity from natural infection.

In the absence of asymptomatic testing and at a low vaccination uptake rate (30%), the cumulative incidence of COVID-19 during the first term was estimated to be between 53% and 71%. If asymptomatic testing (90% of students taking LFTs twice weekly, 4 days apart) were to be deployed but the vaccination uptake rate still remain low (30%), the cumulative incidence of COVID-19 would drop to 37% to 56%.

If the vaccination uptake rate were to reach high to very high levels (70–90%) and asymptomatic testing were to be deployed, the cumulative incidence of COVID-19 would come down to 7–9%, with about 80% of the cases likely to be asymptomatic.

The study lead, Dr Emily Nixon of the University of Bristol, said: ‘Our findings highlight the importance of encouraging vaccine uptake and regular testing even without symptoms. These interventions will help institutions set policies to maintain control of COVID-19 and be able to provide uninterrupted education.’

The research was supported by the JUNIPER (Joint UNIversities Pandemic and Epidemiological Research) consortium and the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation.

This article originally appeared on Medscape, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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