There were 300,000 fewer COVID deaths and 650,000 fewer hospitalizations among seniors because of vaccines, according to a new report from the government Friday.
That’s a decrease of hospitalization and death by about 39–47%, according to the report, and it saved the healthcare system around $16 billion.
The report studied seniors on Medicare insurance through the end of 2021. Those over 65 accounted for a vast majority of the COVID deaths in the country since the pandemic began, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Promoting the new findings, administration officials described the data as reason to get vaccinated with the new booster shots ahead of a possible winter surge.
“We hope that with this report, we can continue to encourage Americans to get updated with their vaccinations and get us prepared for the fall and winter that’s coming,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said on a call with reporters.
But that’s easier said than done, of course. Vaccine uptake across the U.S. has been an uphill battle since the onset of the pandemic, and has only grown more challenging with each recommendation for booster shots.
So far, the administration said it expects about 13-15 million Americans to have gotten the newest booster by the end of this week, or about 6% of the eligible population. The vaccine has been available since the beginning of September.
White House COVID Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha acknowledged that the pace of vaccines needs to increase in October.
He urged everyone to get a shot, particularly elderly people, who are still the most hard hit by the virus.
“We’re still losing 350 or more people a day to COVID-19 and this impact is not equally distributed. We know that 70% of deaths occurring today are in people over 75. This is unacceptable. Particularly because we can now prevent almost every COVID deaths in the country with vaccines and treatments that we have,” Jha said.
“But the good news is we are not helpless against this virus,” he added. “And so our message is very simple. Don’t wait. Get vaccinated. Go get vaccinated now. Get it before Halloween. So you are ready before Thanksgiving and Christmas and the holidays.”
Asked what the administration is going to do to drive up the vaccination rate, Jha said that part of the problem is funding.
“We are running the best campaign we can and we think a quite an effective campaign. But no doubt about it, it has been substantially hampered by the lack of funding from Congress,” Jha said.
He also said he hoped more people would get shots as the weather cools down and people head in for their flu shots.