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"Our Masks for All legislation will instruct the Trump administration to utilize the Defense Production Act to produce and deliver three high-quality, reusable masks to every person in the country via the U.S. postal system," explains Sanders. "The masks would also be made available free at testing sites, post offices and pharmacies, as well as homeless shelters, jails, detention centers and other congregate-care settings." (Photo: Lucy Lambriex/iStock/via Getty Images)

"Covid-19 vaccines save lives, prevent hospitalizations, and reduce infection," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said on October 5, 2021. (Photo: Lucy Lambriex/iStock/via Getty Images)

Covid Vaccines Prevented Nearly 40K Deaths Among US Seniors From January to May: Report

"The vaccines were transformational," said one doctor. "It was sort of a very visible miracle."

Kenny Stancil

A new government report released Tuesday shows that coronavirus vaccines helped prevent over a quarter of a million new Covid-19 infections, more than 100,000 hospitalizations, and nearly 40,000 deaths among U.S. seniors from January to May—findings that further demonstrate the effectiveness of the shots in fighting a disease that has killed upwards of 700,000 people across the nation.

According to the study on the relationship between county-level inoculation rates and Covid-19 outcomes among Medicare beneficiaries, which was conducted by researchers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), vaccines helped ward off 265,000 infections, 107,000 hospitalizations, and 39,000 deaths during the first five months of 2021.

"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 Biden-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."

Seniors have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, accounting for nearly 80% of the more than 352,000 Covid-19 deaths that occurred in the U.S. between mid-March and mid-December of 2020, before vaccines were made available, HHS noted.

Given their heightened vulnerability to severe illness and death from Covid-19, people 65 and older were among the first eligible for vaccines and quickly became the most inoculated demographic in the country as soon as the shots were rolled out.

"For the period of January to May 2021, when vaccination grew from 1% to 47% among adults 18 to 64 and from 1% to 80% among seniors, the study found an 11-12% decrease in weekly Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths among Medicare beneficiaries for every 10% increase in county vaccination rates," HHS explained.

Nationwide, more than 94% of seniors have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC estimates that people 65 and older who are fully inoculated against Covid-19 have a 94% lower risk of hospitalization, and areas with higher overall vaccination rates offer even better protection.

"The vaccines were transformational," Dr. Louise Aronson, a professor in the University of California San Francisco's Division of Geriatrics, told CNN on Tuesday. "It was sort of a very visible miracle."

Because research has indicated that immunity wanes over time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended that immunocompromised individuals and seniors who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine get a booster shot at least six months after their primary doses. Approximately 8% of people 65 and older have already done so, CNN reported.

"I hope this makes a lot of seniors really excited about the news that they are now eligible for boosters if they're six months out," Dr. Claudia Hoyen, an infectious disease specialist and director of pediatric infection control at UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, told CNN following the publication of the new HHS report.

"As we're going into winter we want to be sure that everyone's immunity is up," Hoyen added, "so now would also be a good time for those seniors to go ahead and think about boosters and flu shots."

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