I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now: COVID-19 vaccines save lives.

The latest strong evidence is a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study that underscores the benefits of vaccination for older people and others at higher risk of severe COVID-19. It links COVID-19 vaccinations in 2021 with 650,000 fewer hospitalizations and more than 300,000 fewer deaths among individuals on Medicare. That represents reductions of 39% and 47%, respectively, in hospitalizations and deaths in this group.

On top of lives saved and hospitalizations prevented, the report notes, these reductions saved more than $16 billion in direct medical costs.

I encourage you to review this study and also to look at our monthly report on COVID-19 outcomes by vaccination status. In August, Arizonans who weren’t vaccinated were 18 times more likely to be hospitalized and 28 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people who were up-to-date on vaccination.

This week, federal officials expanded availability of the new Omicron COVID-19 booster to kids 5 and older. That booster targets current variants that are extremely transmissible and adept at evading immune response. Up-to-date immune protection benefits everyone, but it’s especially important for older individuals and others with weakened immune systems and those around them.

If you aren’t up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccination, I encourage you to change that today by finding a provider at azhealth.gov/FindVaccine and getting the Omicron COVID-19 booster. Vaccines offer the best protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.