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Two years after the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in the United States, a new study estimates that vaccination has helped save 3 million lives and avoid 18 million additional hospitalizations.

Researchers at the New York-based Commonwealth Fund used a computer model of disease transmission specific to COVID to estimate hospitalizations and deaths averted through the end of November 2022. The researchers determined that without vaccination “the U.S. would have experienced 1.5 times more infections, 3.8 times more hospitalizations, and 4.1 times more deaths,” which would have cost an additional $1 trillion.

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Throughout Indian Country—where CDC data shows that Native Americans and Alaska Natives are three times more likely than their white counterparts to contract COVID, and four times more likely to be hospitalized as a result—vaccine rollouts have been particularly helpful.

As of December 12, 2022, the Indian Health Service has administered about 2.4 million doses of the COVID vaccine throughout its service areas, their website says.

Despite vaccine success, doctors are warning people to get their updated booster shot to protect them against decreasing efficacy. According to CDC data, only 14% of people have received the latest booster shot.

An estimated 77% of American Indians and Alaska Natives have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 12% have received their updated booster dose.

“While COVID-19 is not the disruptive force it once was, the virus continues to evolve, and cases are on the rise again as families are spending more time indoors and gathering for the holidays,” the White House announced on Dec. 15 as part of its COVID winter preparedness plan. “Throughout the COVID-19 response, this Administration has been prepared for whatever the virus throws our way – and this moment is no different.”

The Biden administration announced Thursday that it’s making rapid COVID tests by mail available for free again. Every U.S. household is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID tests at CovidTests.gov. Orders will begin shipping December 19, 2022.

In addition, the administration is focusing on several initiatives to stem infection: providing over 15,000 free community testing sites nationwide, expanding vaccination sites, and getting additional resources to community health centers and aging and disability networks to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

“With COVID-19 cases rising across the country, we are thankful for the Biden Administration making free at-home tests available to the public,” IHS spokesperson Marshall Cohen said in a statement to Native News Online. “Self-testing is one of several risk-reduction strategies to reduce the chances of COVID-19 transmission.

"As friends and family across the country gather indoors for the holiday season, it is important to have home-tests available so individuals and families can know their COVID-19 status before visiting others. The IHS encourages all households to order their tests today to have them available when needed.”

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The Native News Health Desk is made possible by a generous grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation as well as sponsorship support from RxDestroyer, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the American Dental Association. This grant funding and sponsorship support have no effect on editorial consideration in Native News Online. 
About The Author
Jenna Kunze
Author: Jenna KunzeEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Writer
Jenna Kunze is a staff reporter covering Indian health, the environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the publication's lead reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine, Elle and Anchorage Daily News. Kunze is based in New York.