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Costs for caring for unvaccinated COVID patients continue to mount

Head shot of Dr. Nancy Nielsen wearing her white University at Buffalo at Buffalo lab coat
University at Buffalo

As local hospitals continue to deal with another surge in COVID-related patients, researchers are gaining a better understanding of the considerable costs associated with such care. Dr. Nancy Nielsen, Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy at UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is paying close attention to one recent study that is tabulating the expense of hospitalizing those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

"It is alarming," Nielsen said after reviewing the numbers associated with the 680,000 unvaccinated people who were hospitalized between June and November, 2021.

"The cost for the United States was $14 billion just for hospitalization of people who weren't vaccinated. That didn't include any kind of outpatient cost like testing or anything like that."

As Nielsen points out, there can be no dollar amount associated with the 826,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. With vaccines now readily available, the numbers should be slowing, not growing.

"My colleague Dr. Tom Russo, UB's Chief of Infectious Diseases, said the other day, if you're not vaccinated you're six times more likely to get infected, 10 times more likely to become seriously ill and 14 times more likely to die," said Nielsen.

"When you hear that, it's really hard to justify why people aren't getting vaccinated."

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.