NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Covid Vaccines Prevented Nearly 140,000 Deaths by May

An Asian man in a grey t-shirt rests his arm on a table as nurse in blue scrubs holds up a needle. A yellow sign reading Covid Vaccination sits on the table.
The study highlights the success of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Photo:  Credit Halfpoint/Shutterstock

An NIA-supported study estimated that Covid-19 vaccinations prevented nearly 140,000 deaths in the U.S. by May 2021. The study is one of the first to assess the impact of state-level vaccination campaigns. Results appeared in the journal Health Affairs

“This study brings into focus the dramatic success of the early months of the nation’s coronavirus vaccine rollout,” said co-lead author Dr. Christopher Whaley, a policy researcher at the RAND Corp.

About half of the U.S. population had been fully vaccinated as of August 2021. But vaccination rates have varied across the country, with some states proceeding much faster than others.

Researchers collected data on state vaccine administrations from government websites and official statements. They determined how long each state took to reach a series of milestones—starting with 5 vaccine doses per 100 adults, up to 120 doses per 100 adults. They also calculated the number of vaccine doses per 100 adults at the end of each week.

The team used the data to create a statistical model. They then examined the relationship between state vaccination intensity and Covid-19 deaths. 

Based on the model, Covid-19 vaccines prevented more than 139,000 deaths during the first 5 months they were available. About 570,000 Covid-19 deaths had occurred in the U.S. by May 9; the model projected about 709,000 deaths would have occurred without the vaccines. The researchers estimated the economic value of preventing these deaths was between $625 billion and $1.4 trillion.

The estimated reduction in deaths varied among states. In New York, vaccinations led to an estimated 11.7 fewer Covid-19 deaths per 10,000. Hawaii had the smallest estimated reduction, with 1.1 fewer deaths per 10,000.

The study had certain limitations that may have affected these estimates. Even so, the results highlight the crucial role of vaccinations in saving lives during the pandemic. The findings support policies that further expand vaccine administration, particularly to low-income and minority populations.—adapted from NIH Research Matters

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