COVID-19 vaccines may have saved the lives of 39,000 seniors in US: HHS study

COVID-19 vaccines may have saved the lives of tens of thousands of seniors nationwide earlier this year, according to estimates from a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report released Tuesday.

The study suggests that COVID-19 vaccinations may have prevented about 265,000 infections, 107,000 hospitalizations and 39,000 fatalities among Medicare recipients in the first five months of 2021.

Researchers specifically found the vaccines may have stopped 5,600 deaths among nursing home Medicare beneficiaries — a population hit hard by the pandemic prior to vaccines.

The vaccination rate among seniors climbed from 1 percent to 80 percent over that five-month period. Weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths among Medicare recipients decreased by 11 to 12 percent for every 10 percent increase in county vaccination rates.

All racial and ethnic groups, as well as the 48 states included in the study, estimated a decrease in cases, hospitalizations and deaths associated with jumps in the vaccination rate. Texas and Hawaii were excluded from the analysis because of “data reporting limitations.”

What this means: The HHS report signals the effectiveness of the vaccines in potentially averting senior deaths after the majority of fatalities before shots occurred among people ages 65 and older who were eligible for Medicare.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the report backs up the Biden administration’s push to vaccinate the country and prioritize older populations, showing these doses “save lives, prevent hospitalizations, and reduce infection.”