Infectious Disease

COVID-19 vaccines prevented more than 300K deaths among Medicare beneficiaries in 2021

October 07, 2022

2 min read

Source/Disclosures

Disclosures:
Becerra and Samson report no relevant financial disclosures.

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In the United States, COVID-19 vaccinations may have prevented more than 650,000 hospitalizations and 300,000 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries in 2021, according to a new report from HHS.

“This report reaffirms what we have said all along: COVID-19 vaccines save lives and prevent hospitalizations,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release. “We now have updated COVID vaccines designed to protect you against the omicron strain of COVID that makes up almost all COVID cases in the US I urge everyone eligible to get an updated COVID vaccine to protect yourself ahead of the fall and winter.”

COVID-19 vaccinations led to 670,000 to 680,000 fewer related hospitalizations and 330,000 to 370,000 fewer deaths among Medicare beneficiaries in 2021. Source: Adobe Stock

According to HHS, more than 90% of seniors in the US are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Previous research from HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) revealed an association between COVID-19 vaccinations and reductions in US hospitalizations and deaths through May 2021. In the current analysis, Lok Wong Samson, PhD, MHS, a health policy analyst at ASPE, and colleagues examined data through the end of 2021, which included COVID-19 surges caused by the delta variant in the summer and the omicron variant in the winter.

Overall, the researchers estimated that COVID-19 vaccinations led to 670,000 to 680,000 fewer related hospitalizations and 330,000 to 370,000 fewer deaths among Medicare beneficiaries. This translates to a 39% projected decline in hospitalizations and 47% decline in deaths compared with a scenario with no COVID-19 vaccinations. These reductions were observed among all racial and ethnic groups in all 50 states, according to the researchers.

“The reduction in hospitalizations and deaths associated with vaccinations grew rapidly starting with the summer delta surge,” Samson and colleagues wrote. “This occurred even as vaccination rates started to slow compared to the spring, suggesting that the greater risk of the delta variant may have enhanced the collective benefit of having been vaccinated previously.”

The reduction in hospitalizations was associated with an estimated savings of $16.3 to $16.5 billion in direct costs, which is a sixfold increase in savings compared with the earlier analysis through May 2021, according to the researchers.

In the absence of COVID-19 vaccinations, Samson and colleagues estimated that more than 1.7 million hospitalizations and 700,000 deaths would have occurred among Medicare beneficiaries in 2021.

“This study demonstrates that high levels of community-wide primary COVID-19 vaccination rates in 2021 were associated with large reductions in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths among Medicare beneficiaries, as well as significant savings from reduced hospitalizations costs,” Samson and colleagues wrote .

References:

New HHS report: COVID-19 vaccinations in 2021 linked to more than 650,000 fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations and more than 300,000 fewer deaths among Medicare beneficiaries, underscoring importance of getting updated COVID-19 vaccines this fall. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2022/10/07/new-hhs-report-covid-19-vaccinations-in-2021-linked-to-more-than-650000-fewer-covid- 19-hospitalizations.html. Published Oct. 7, 2022. Accessed Oct. 7, 2022.

Samson LW, et al. Lives saved and hospitalizations prevented by primary COVID-19 vaccinations among Medicare beneficiaries: Full year 2021 estimates. https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/21a637373ccaf4c66f934bdbbb23ad5c/covid-19-medicare-2021-lives-saved.pdf. Published Oct. 7, 2022. Accessed Oct. 7, 2022.

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