Omicron’s bivalent COVID-19 boosters could prevent tens of thousands of deaths in the United States and save billions of dollars in health care costs if a successful vaccination campaign is implemented, according to new research.
New forecasts released by Commonwealth Fund Wednesday showed that nearly 90,000 coronavirus deaths could be prevented if 80 percent of eligible people received the updated boost by the end of this year.
The offer included those as young as five years old, considering Pfizer’s recent request for permission to administer the latest booster dose to younger children. This application is not yet licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and only children under 12 years of age are currently allowed to receive Omicron booster doses.
Only about half of the US population received their first booster and only about two-thirds of the population completed the basic two-dose regimen required to be eligible for a bivalent booster.
September survey data from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only about a third of adults said they plan to get the updated booster, and about 5 percent said they had already.
The Commonwealth Fund projections also estimated that more than 930,000 hospitalizations, $56 billion in medical costs, and nearly 26 million infections could also be avoided if a rapid and widespread vaccination campaign was implemented between October and December.
In a more conservative projection — one that operates under a scenario in which the boosted coverage matches flu vaccine coverage during the 2020-2021 flu season — the Commonwealth Fund found that more than 75,000 deaths and 745,000 hospitalizations could be prevented. In the 2020-2021 flu season, about 52 percent of people over six months of age received flu vaccinations.
Recent polling data from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases found that influenza vaccine uptake could reverse previous years, with 49 percent Saying they planned to get a flu shot.
The White House has encouraged people to get their flu shots and COVID-19 booster shots at the same time, with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra saying in September, “I really think that’s why God gave us two arms.”
The Commonwealth Fund also projected a possible scenario in which booster dose absorption continues at its current rate until March 2023. If there is an increase in winter while vaccination rates remain at their current pace, the organization has estimated that the US could see a wave of cases peaking at 16,000 per day along with 1,200 Daily deaths by the end of March.
Coronavirus cases and deaths have seen a steady decline after peaking in July due to the prevalence of BA.4 and BA.5 omicron sub variants. While it has been observed that these new sub-strains of the COVID-19 virus better evade the immune protection provided by vaccines and previous infections, health experts have said that the protection provided by primary vaccination should remain effective in preventing severe illness that can lead to hospitalization and death. .
“As the population’s immunity wanes and new variants capable of evading protection from previous vaccines and natural infections continue to emerge, the potential for hospital spikes and deaths increases during the coming fall and winter,” the Commonwealth Fund said in a statement.
“The recent FDA approval of bivalent boosters provides an opportunity to reduce transmission; a vaccination campaign that moves aggressively can avoid increased hospitalizations and deaths, and saves money in the process.”
The institution acknowledged limitations in these predictions, including the lack of human data demonstrating the efficacy of the bivalent reinforcer against BA.4 and BA.5 as well as excluding other factors such as holiday-driven connectivity.