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Monthly financial toll of preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations rises into the billions

by Robin Lasky, Contributing Reporter | September 21, 2021
Business Affairs
A recently released analysis estimates that vaccine-preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations have resulted in an additional $5.7 billion dollars in healthcare costs over a three-month period.

Since June of this year, COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. have spiked with the emergence of the Delta variant.

Though the Delta strain has shown to be more vaccine resistant, and there are concerns about waning immunity over time, the two-dose mRNA vaccines have nonetheless proven extremely effective at preventing severe disease and death.

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The data analysis released by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Tuesday, relies on CDC data to estimate that 98.6% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 from June through August of this year were unvaccinated, and thus drawing from only the 25% of the total vaccine-eligible adult population that has yet to be inoculated.

According to the analysis, over this period, the cost of hospitalizing unvaccinated individuals rose from $600 million in June to $1.4 billion in July, before racking up a price tag of an additional $3.7 billion for the Month of August.

“These COVID-19 hospitalizations are devastating for patients, their families, and health care providers. The hospitalizations are also costing taxpayer-funded public insurance programs and the workers and businesses paying health insurance premiums”, the authors stated in the report.

The analysis did not take into account costs that may be associated with post-vaccination medical care.

Estimates for what is required to achieve herd immunity range from vaccinating 60% to 90% of the population, but with, according to the Kaiser analysis, 75% of eligible adults having received both doses of the vaccine, rising hospitalization rates may fuel worries about the vaccines’ prospects for curbing infection.

Experts note that unequal distribution and adoption of a vaccine can be a major impediment to achieving robust countrywide immunity. If some areas of the country accomplish a high rate of vaccination, while others do not, interaction between those populations can spur ongoing outbreaks.

For instance, Florida has lagged behind many other states in vaccination rate, and notoriously has been hit hard by the Delta wave.

Since June, Florida has seen its average daily COVID-19-related deaths rise from low double digits to over 300 per day, where it stands currently. By comparison, New York, a state with a comparable population size, and that reportedly had a much more successful earlier vaccine rollout, since Delta, has experienced a milder spike in new cases, as well as a consistently low death rate that appears to be almost entirely decoupled from the modest rise in new infections.

As an indicator of disease severity, hospitalizations may be an imperfect indicator. A new study, which has not been peer-reviewed, found COVID-19 hospital admissions for moderate-to-severe cases have dropped from 62% to 52% in the post vaccine era. Those findings, if validated, would suggest that a substantial portion of COVID-19 hospital admissions are not for the treatment of moderate-to-severe cases.

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