MILWAUKEE — We all know vaccines save lives. It's what we've been told from scientists. Now we are learning just how many lives have been saved because of vaccines.
A new study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, estimates the vaccines saved 700 lives in Wisconsin. The study focused on people 65 years and older.
Former Gov. Marty Schreiber's concern about his wife Elaine being in a long-term care facility never stopped last year during the pandemic.
"One of the things I worried about the most was, if Elaine would get the COVID-19 and die, I wouldn't be there to say good bye because it was under total quarantine," said Schreiber.
Schreiber's wife has Alzheimer's, a journey he has chronicled in a book about the challenges faced by caregivers of a spouse or person diagnosed with the disease.
Both are vaccinated.
Schreiber says the coronavirus vaccine not only made him feel protected - it was a stress reliever.
"Just to have that comfort that you know your loved one is safe from harm's way, what a wonderful feeling. What a relief," said Schreiber.
That relief comes as federal officials continue to promote the benefits of the vaccine after the new HHS study says it is preventing deaths, hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases.
TMJ4's Charles Benson talked with Acting Assistant Secretary Rebecca Haffajee, who worked on the study that looked at Wisconsin numbers from January to May of this year.
Benson: "What is the message here and how did you get to these numbers?"
Haffajee: "We saw about 5,500 reductions in infections, 2,200 reductions in hospitalizations and 700 reductions in deaths. And this was specifically in the Medicare population, that was the population that we were studying."
But the study also found another benefit.
"We found that it didn't just matter that the 65 plus were vaccinated, that it mattered that everybody 18 and above was vaccinated and that younger age range as well, but that was protective for all Medicare beneficiaries," said Sec. Haffajee.
HHS estimates nationwide the vaccine prevented 107,000 hospitalizations and 39,000 deaths.
For the 82-year-old Schreiber, the message is clear. "Science was telling us this vaccination process is one of the things that's going to slow down this pandemic," he said.
Schreiber contracted the virus this summer, but he says thanks to the vaccine and medication, he recovered without any setbacks.
He says his book, "My Two Elaines," has been picked up by Harper Publishing with new information.
"What all that is going on as it relates to the mind of the person who is ill, but also to help caregivers better understand some of the reaction of someone with Alzheimer's," said Schreiber. "And lessen the anxieties of someone who is ill."
The updated version will be out early next year.