Researchers link 266K avertable deaths to COVID vaccination rates

By John Commins

The United States would have averted 266,700 deaths during the Delta and Omicron spikes of the COVID-19 pandemic if the excess all-cause mortality rate nationally matched that of the 10-most vaccinated states, a new study shows.

The data, compiled in a research letter from Brown University School of Public Health, and Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, also showed that 122,304 deaths would have been averted if COVID-19 mortality rates matched those of the 10 most-vaccinated states between June 27, 2021 and March 26, 2022, the period covering outbreaks of the Delta (June 27, 2021-Dec. 25, 2021) and Omicron variants (December 26, 2021-March 26, 2022).

The rate of COVID mortality in the nation’s 10 least-vaccinated states – 145 per 100,000 population — was nearly double the COVID mortality rate of the 10 most-vaccinated states (74.5/100,000), according to the letter which was published Friday in JAMA Network.

“The U.S. continued to experience significantly higher COVID-19 and excess all-cause mortality compared with peer countries during 2021 and early 2022, a difference accounting for 150,000 to 470,000 deaths,” the letter states.

When compared with 20 other wealthy nations that had ready access to vaccines, the United States excess all-cause mortality – 145 deaths per 100,000 population – was the highest. However, the 10 most-vaccinated states had excess all-cause mortality (65/100,000) comparable with or lower than other wealthy countries, such as Germany (63/100,000), the Netherlands (63/100,000), and Italy (71/100,000) over the Delta and Omicron outbreaks.

Comparisons of direct COVID-19 mortality in the United States with the peer nations were even more stark, with 111 deaths per 100,000 population, more than double the rate of most wealthy nations. Austria (65/100,000) led all peer nations.

“This difference was muted in the 10 states with highest vaccination coverage; remaining gaps may be explained by greater vaccination uptake in peer countries, better vaccination targeting to older age groups, and differences in health and social infrastructure,” the letter said.

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.