Thousands of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 among Medicare recipients were avoided in New York due to the widespread use of the vaccine, a report released this month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found.

The report comes as public health officials are rolling out COVID booster shots for eligible people ahead of the winter months in order to reduce the spread of the virus as the pandemic continues, but many guidelines like mask wearing in most indoor places has ended.

The report found the COVID vaccine led to 41,200 fewer hospitalizations and 18,600 fewer deaths in New York among older people who receive Medicare benefits.

“This report reaffirms what we have said all along: COVID-19 vaccines save lives and prevent hospitalizations,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “We now have updated COVID vaccines designed to protect you against the Omicron strain of COVID that makes up almost all COVID cases in the U.S."

Nationally, this has meant 300,000 fewer deaths, the report found.

New York state health officials this week have launched a public service announcement campaign to encourage both flu shots as well as COVID boosters this winter. People age 12 and older are eligible for a COVID booster; distribution has been largely left to local public health officials and pharmacies.