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SARS-CoV-2 transmission across age groups in France and implications for control

Nature Communications

Tran Kiem C, Bosetti P, Paireau J, Crépey P, Salje H, Lefrancq N, Fontanet A, Benamouzig D, Boëlle PY, Desenclos JC, Opatowski L, Cauchemez S

The shielding of older individuals has been proposed to limit COVID-19 hospitalizations while relaxing general social distancing in the absence of vaccines. Evaluating such approaches requires a deep understanding of transmission dynamics across ages. Here, we use detailed age-specific case and hospitalization data to model the rebound in the French epidemic in summer 2020, characterize age-specific transmission dynamics and critically evaluate different age-targeted intervention measures in the absence of vaccines. We find that while the rebound started in young adults, it reached individuals aged ≥80 y.o. after 4 weeks, despite substantial contact reductions, indicating substantial transmission flows across ages. We derive the contribution of each age group to transmission. While shielding older individuals reduces mortality, it is insufficient to allow major relaxations of social distancing. When the epidemic remains manageable (R close to 1), targeting those most contributing to transmission is better than shielding at-risk individuals. Pandemic control requires an effort from all age groups.

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