The sad news about the nearly 1 million people who died of COVID-19 in the United States is that they didn’t need a huge chunk.
In Tennessee, 11,047 of the dead could have survived if everyone in the state had been vaccinated. In Ohio, that number is 15,875. According to a new estimate, nationally it is about 319,000.
The figures come from an analysis published Friday by researchers at Brown University and Microsoft AI Health – which is exclusively shared with NPR – which estimates the share of vaccine-preventable deaths in each state since the COVID-19 vaccine became available in early 2021. .
In early 2021, when vaccines were widely distributed, there was widespread demand. At the top of the vaccine campaign in the spring, 4 million people get vaccinated in one day. That demand has decreased in the summer. One year later, many states still have the answer in 50% of fully vaccinated people.
How many lives could have been saved if the recession for vaccine demand had never happened? To answer this question, Brown and Microsoft researchers calculated the maximum vaccination rate for each state and then imagined that the rate would continue until all adults in the state were fully vaccinated.
The total number is very difficult for the country: many of the approximately 1 million covidar deaths occurred in 2020 before vaccines became available. But more than half of the deaths of the more than 641,000 people who died after the vaccine became available – 318,981 – were vaccinated for every eligible adult. And where these numbers are even more interesting in certain states More More than half of the deaths could have been avoided.
“The vaccine rollout has been both a significant success and a significant failure,” said Stephanie Friedhoff, a professor at the Brown School of Public Health and one of the authors of the analysis. It was a breakthrough, he said, in the sense that “the United States was the first to develop these vaccines and to make high-dose doses available to the public quickly.”
A lot of money and energy was invested in the supply of the rollout – the supply side of the equation. He said much less was invested to stimulate demand for the vaccine.
“Why are vaccines important – we haven’t started spreading information about what they do for us?” He says. “We have dramatically underestimated the investment that people need to make to become familiar with the vaccine because, in general, we have not had such a deadly disease, so people have moved away from the significant impact of vaccination.”
Red state, blue state
Maps of states with the most preventable deaths show a sharp political divide – as NPR reports, people living in the county that voted for then-President Trump in the 2020 election were three times more likely to die in COVID-19 than survivors. Those in the counties who voted for President Biden.
According to the analysis, West Virginia, Wyoming, Tennessee, Kentucky and Oklahoma have the highest number of vaccine-preventable deaths per capita. Washington DC, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Vermont and Hawaii had the lowest.
The analysis is accessible on an interactive dashboard that shows different scenarios for estimating the effect of vaccines by state, such as 85% or 90% vaccination rate instead of 100%.
The national number of vaccine-preventable COVID deaths, calculated by Brown and Microsoft, exceeds the previous analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which puts the number at 234,000. Cynthia Cox, director of Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker and a co-author of that analysis, told NPR that differences in approach could explain the differences.
In contrast to the KFF analysis, the new analysis includes data on how many Americans have been boosted – hence the total number of vaccine-preventable deaths in people who have never been vaccinated, as well as those whose vaccine protection has been reduced and who have not received a booster.
Regarding the Brown study, Cox said, “I think it’s a really clear way to demonstrate both the effectiveness of vaccines and the need to continue vaccinating more people and to make sure they’re up to date on those vaccines.”
He noted a limitation that counts could overestimate the effectiveness of the vaccine, as vaccination rates were lower in most Republican-led states and they also used other epidemic-fighting tools such as masks and social distance less.
‘Map of Faith’
A surgeon and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of the analysis with Friedhoff, Dr. One state that stands out in the analysis is West Virginia, said Thomas Tsai
At first, the West Virginia vaccine rollout was celebrated as other states fought to get vaccine stocks and get them into the hands of the people.
“There was a very, very initial pressure to get vaccinated, but there was a lack of resources to see it in a year,” Sai said. “West Virginia could have ended up like Maine or Vermont, but ended up like Wyoming or Idaho – not for lack of effort, potentially, but for lack of resources.”
A. Toni Young runs a public health campaign in West Virginia called the Community Education Group, which works to vaccinate people against COVID-19 across the state. From his point of view, vaccination rates declined when voices from local pharmacies and physicians were suppressed by national voices denying the seriousness of COVID-19 or saying that animal immunity was imminent.
“People started a conversation on their social network, and they had a real attitude, ‘Well, someone else has been vaccinated, I don’t need to be vaccinated.’ They start to see people, especially the younger ones, get covid and survive, “Young said.
“I think we could have had more trusted leaders to send messages to West Virginia,” Young added.
“It all comes down to confidence – whether political leadership creates an environment of trust in the public health agency’s efforts, in science, in its ability to deliver healthcare,” Sai said. “To me, it’s a map of faith.”
Speaking to NPR in the background, a senior White House official pointed to what the administration has done to invest in community-led vaccination efforts, and said that confidence-building was a key part of what the Biden administration was saying to fund Congress.
But pressure for more federal COVID-19 funding appears to be easing. The White House has asked for 22.5 billion – less than half of it when Congress reached a funding agreement in April. Federal officials have warned that the delay could affect Americans’ access to booster shots in the future. Funds for free COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatment for people without health insurance are already exhausted.
Patterns found in Brown’s analysis could lead to future covid death where vaccination access is poor and hesitant, Friedhoff warns.
Immunity to both the vaccine and previous infections tends to decline over time, and more booster campaigns may be needed to save lives.
“We are at a stage where we have lost 1 million lives, but there is still very little investment and interest to continue the vaccination campaign and support for vaccination,” he said. The underlying data from this tool is real, he notes – those who were actually vaccinated and those who actually died. “The basis of this dashboard is what actually happened, and it can show us – despite all the descriptions – how many people didn’t die.”
It provides evidence and encouragement, he adds, to try and support more people in their decision to get vaccinated.