HHS: Vaccines prevented 8.5K COVID-19 cases, 1.4K deaths among Michigan seniors

By: - October 5, 2021 1:58 pm

Marla Moss receives the COVID-19 vaccine at the Kent County Health Department.

COVID-19 vaccinations in Michigan may have helped prevent about 8,500 seniors from contracting the virus, 1,400 from dying and 3,900 from being hospitalized during spring 2021, according to a medical study published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Monday.

The report studied the associations between COVID-19 statistics among all 62.7 million Medicare beneficiaries and county-level vaccination levels between January and May — the first five months of the country’s vaccination roll-out.

As of Monday, a total of 1,039,337 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 21,139 have died from the virus throughout the state.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), approximately 58% of Michigan’s residents 12 years and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Around 62.5% of residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

A DHHS spokesperson did not immediately provide a request for comment.

The new national study was conducted by researchers with the HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). 

“Our results indicate that COVID-19 vaccinations from January until May 2021 were associated with an estimated reduction of more than 265,000 COVID-19 infections and nearly 39,000 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries” nationally, the study concludes, along with a reduction of about 107,000 hospitalizations.

Vaccinations also likely prevented about 5,600 deaths nationally among nursing home Medicare beneficiaries, who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

“This report reaffirms what we hear routinely from states: COVID-19 vaccines save lives, prevent hospitalizations, and reduce infection,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “The [President Joe] Biden-[Vice President Kamala] Harris Administration has prioritized getting vaccines quickly to pharmacies, nursing homes, doctors’ offices and even provided increased reimbursement rates for at-home COVID-19 vaccinations, so that seniors and others can easily get vaccinated.” 

HHS notes that before COVID-19 vaccines were available, nearly 80% of deaths during the first nine months of the pandemic were among Medicare-eligible Americans ages 65 and older.

As vaccination rates grew from January to May, the new report found a decrease of 11% to 12% in weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths (among Medicare beneficiaries) for every 10% increase in county vaccination rates across the country.

The largest vaccination-related percentage reduction in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths was among American Indian and Alaska Native Medicare beneficiaries, although all racial and ethnic groups overall experienced reduced COVID-19 rates across all 48 of the states analyzed.

Texas and Hawaii were excluded from the study due to insufficient data reporting.

A recently issued directive from Becerra authorizes CDC vaccine program providers to administer Pfizer booster doses to everyone eligible starting Sept. 25, including seniors over age 65.

All COVID-19 vaccines, including the authorized booster, will be covered without cost-sharing for Medicare beneficiaries. 

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).