COVID-19 vaccine linked to reduction in US senior deaths, HHS says

With more than 83% of U.S. adults aged 65 and older vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, a new study suggests vaccines have reduced COVID-19 infections and deaths in seniors. 

According to the study published by the Department of Health and Human Services, the purpose of the research was to identify associations between COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths among Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiaries and the proportion of the population fully vaccinated at the county-level between January and May 2021. 

Researchers used a combination of person-level Medicare FFS claims and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on county-level vaccination rates. 


An elderly resident puts her hand on a face mask.

The results showed an estimated net reduction in infections, hospitalizations and deaths among all 62.7 million Medicare beneficiaries associated with the first five months of the U.S.‘s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. 

"COVID-19 vaccines are a key component in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic," The study authors wrote. "Clinical data show vaccines are highly effective in preventing COVID-19 infections and severe outcomes including hospitalization and death." 

The results were associated with an estimated reduction of more than 265,000 COVID-19 infections and nearly 39,000 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries.

RELATED: US to increase at-home COVID-19 rapid test availability

"We find an 11-12% decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths for every 10% increase in county vaccination rates, and a similar decrease in infections among Medicare beneficiaries," the study authors continued. 

The study comes after promising CDC data showing a steady decline in cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus over the last month — likely from increased restrictions including mask-wearing, along with an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations among Americans. 

As of Wednesday, 77.9% of adults in the U.S. had received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 67.5% of American adults were fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by the CDC.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy may be waning over time, survey suggests

The U.S. introduced COVID-19 vaccinations starting in December 2020 after 20 million people had been infected and 352,000 lives were lost over the first nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers noted nearly 80% of the deaths were estimated to be among persons 65 and older who were also Medicare eligible based on age. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.