A new report shows COVID-19 vaccinations may have helped prevent roughly 5,100 new COVID-19 infections and 700 deaths among seniors in Georgia during the first five months of this year .

The study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), also found that vaccinations were linked to a reduction of about 265,000 COVID-19 infections nationally, 107,000 hospitalizations, and 39,000 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries between January and May 2021.

“This report reaffirms what we hear routinely from states: COVID-19 vaccines save lives, prevent hospitalizations, and reduce infection,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Read the HHS report here.

More than 352,000 lives were lost during the first nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the availability of vaccines, nearly 80% of these deaths were among people 65 and older who were also Medicare eligible.

Between January and May of this year, when vaccination rates grew from 1% to 47% among adults 18 to 64 and from 1% to 80% among seniors, the study found an 11% to 12% decrease in weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths among Medicare beneficiaries for every 10% increase in county vaccination rates.

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All racial and ethnic groups in 48 states experienced reduced numbers of COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations, and infections linked to vaccination rate increases. Texas and Hawaii were excluded from the analysis due to data reporting limitations.

The study also found that vaccines were linked to a reduction of about 5,600 deaths among nursing home Medicare beneficiaries, a group that was disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

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Becerra issued a directive last month authorizing all COVID-19 vaccine providers to make available and administer Pfizer booster shots to seniors over age 65.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.