COVID-19 vaccines prevented nearly 140,000 deaths in the U.S.

By Carol Davis

Nearly 140,000 deaths and 3 million cases of COVID-19 were averted in the first five months of the vaccination campaign in the United States, a new study says.

The 50 states and Washington, D.C., experienced an average of five fewer deaths from COVID-19 per 10,000 adult residents as a result of early vaccination efforts through May 9, according to the study. Adjusting for population size, New York saw the largest estimated reduction, with 11.7 fewer COVID-19 deaths per 10,000 adult residents.

The study, published online by the journal Health Affairs, is one of the first to assess the impacts of state-level vaccination campaigns to address the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release from RAND, a nonprofit research organization that, along with Indiana University researchers, conducted the study.

“This study brings into focus the dramatic success of the early months of the nation’s coronavirus vaccine rollout,” Christopher Whaley, senior author of the study and a policy researcher at RAND, said in the release.

“The findings provide support for policies that further expand vaccine administration to enable a larger proportion of the nation’s population to benefit,” he said.

The pandemic has caused enormous suffering and more than 600,000 deaths in the U.S.—and more than 4 million worldwide.

While access to and use of vaccines has varied substantially across states and sub-populations during early stages of the U.S. vaccine campaign, COVID-19 case numbers and deaths have fallen sharply since vaccination programs began.

Researchers from RAND and Indiana University created models to estimate the number of COVID-19 deaths that would have occurred in the absence of vaccinations.

By the week May 9, 2021, about 550,000 people had died of COVID-19 in the US. Researchers determined that, without the vaccinations, that number would have reached 709,000, the study says.

“Our study suggests that without the vaccinations of early 2021, the cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. would have been nearly 1.2 times higher than their current level,” researchers said.

The economic value of the lives saved during the study period is estimated to be between $625 billion and $1.4 trillion. Through the end of 2020, the U.S. federal government had allocated $13 billion dollars for vaccine development and manufacturing.

“Our results suggest that further efforts to vaccinate populations globally and in a coordinated fashion will be critical to achieving greater control of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sumedha Gupta, first author of the study and an economist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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COVID-19, Infection Control