Study: COVID vaccines saved 3M lives and millions from the hospital, but people aren’t getting the booster

By Allison R. Donahue, Michigan Advance

A new study found that more than 3 million lives in the U.S. were likely saved and 18.5 million people were kept out of the hospital thanks to COVID-19 vaccines. 

Researchers from the Commonwealth Fund and Yale School of Public Health tracked age-stratified demographics, risk factors and the dynamics of infection and vaccination to understand the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines nearly two years after they were approved.

There have been at least 99.2 million cases and more than 1.08 million deaths in the U.S. In Michigan, there have been nearly 3 million cases and 40,508 deaths due to COVID-19, according to Tuesday data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. However, with more people using home tests, the case count is likely an undercount.

According to the study, the COVID-19 vaccines prevented 1.5 times more infections, 3.8 times more hospitalizations and 4.1 times more deaths between December 2020 and November 2022 nationwide. 

The study also states the vaccines saved Americans $1.15 trillion in medical costs.

“The unprecedented pace at which vaccines were developed and deployed has saved many lives and allowed for safer easing of COVID-19 restrictions and reopening of businesses, schools and other activities,” the authors of the report wrote. “This extraordinary achievement has been possible only through sustained funding and effective policymaking that ensured vaccines were available to all Americans. Moving forward, accelerating uptake of the new booster will be fundamental to averting future hospitalizations and deaths.”

But not everyone has gotten the vaccine. 

In Michigan, 69% of residents have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, but only 14% of Michigan residents have gotten the updated bivalent booster dose which better protects against the omicron variant.

Nationally, 81% of the country is vaccinated and 13.5% of the country’s eligible population has the updated booster shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 1 in 5 people in the country are completely unvaccinated.

Most Michigan counties are experiencing low to medium levels of Community spread. Schoolcraft County in the Upper Peninsula is the sole county to have a high level of community spread.