With the latest variants of Covid-19 spreading rapidly and another surge of cases expected as the weather cools in the months ahead, a new study from The Commonwealth Fund finds that an aggressive campaign this fall to deliver more booster shots could save roughly 160,000 lives.
About 67% of Americans are currently vaccinated, and booster shots are available for anyone over the age of 5, but less than half of all vaccinated people have received boosters, which have been shown to significantly reduce the severity of Covid cases. Both booster and vaccination rates have steadily declined over the last few months.
To see how effective a public health campaign would be, researchers modeled three different scenarios for booster deliveries: continue at the present rate, increase the rate to that achieved during a recent influenza shot campaign, and achieve an 80% booster rate for the population over the age of 5.
The researchers found that under the most ambitious scenario, the country would experience 160,000 fewer deaths, as well as 1.7 million fewer hospitalizations. The health care system would also save $109 billion in direct medical costs by the spring of 2023.
Yes, but: While an aggressive booster campaign makes sense from both public health and fiscal perspectives, it faces an uphill battle. For one thing, it seems that many Americans have given up on the battle against Covid. For another, Congress has refused to provide additional funding for efforts to combat the latest variants.
The big takeaway: "The continued absence of new federal funding for COVID-19 vaccination will limit efforts to increase booster vaccination coverage and could lead to thousands of avoidable hospitalizations and deaths," the report says in conclusion.