About a third of the 1 million lives lost to COVID-19 could have been saved with vaccines, a new analysis shows.
Researchers at the Brown School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Microsoft AI for Health analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The New York Times and came up with not only 319,000 needless deaths but also a state-by-state breakdown of where they could have been prevented.
Between January 2021 and April 2022, about every second person who died from COVID-19 since vaccines became available might have lived if they had gotten the shots, the researchers found. Nationwide, about half of the 641,000 people who have died since vaccines became available could have lived if every single eligible adult had gotten jabbed.
“At a time when many in the U.S. have given up on vaccinations, these numbers are a stark reminder of the effectiveness of vaccines in fighting this pandemic,” said Stefanie Friedhoff, associate professor of the practice in Health Services, Policy and Practice at the Brown University School of Public Health, and a co-author of the analysis, in a statement. “We must continue to invest in getting more Americans vaccinated and boosted to save more lives.”
They created a dashboard showing the number of vaccine-preventable deaths per 1 million residents in each state and in the U.S. as a whole. Then they created an “alternative scenario” positing what it would look like if the vaccination pace had been sustained at its highest point last spring and stayed aloft long enough for 85%, 90% or even 100% of the adult population to get jabbed.
What it looked like was 319,000 people still being alive, even when variants’ effectiveness on immunity was factored out.
The most lives could have been saved in West Virginia, Wyoming, Tennessee, Kentucky and Oklahoma, the team found. Where vaccination rates were higher, such as Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Vermont and Hawaii, the number of deaths that could have been prevented with vaccines was lower.
For instance, if all adults in Tennessee had gotten vaccinated, there would be 11,047 fewer deaths being mourned, the study found. Likewise in Ohio, where the number stood at 15,875.
“This compelling data illustrates the trajectory of 50 states with 50 different fates during the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing the important role of vaccines in protecting lives in each state,” said Thomas Tsai, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Assistant Professor in Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
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