New study estimates America’s rapid COVID-19 vaccine rollout saved nearly 300,000 lives

covid vaccine
A medical assistant administers a COVID-19 vaccine dose to a woman at a clinic in Los Angeles on March 25, 2021.

  • The US’s rapid vaccine rollout helped prevent a spring surge of 4,500 daily COVID-19 deaths, a new study found.
  • Nearly 300,000 lives were saved and 1.25 million hospitalizations prevented by America’s vaccine program.
  • Researchers said a “renewed commitment to expanding vaccine access” is necessary to stomp out the virus.
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The US COVID-19 vaccine rollout was swift enough to save hundreds of thousands of live and prevent millions of hospitalizations, even as more transmissible and deadlier strains of the virus took hold, a new study found.

Without readily available access to multiple FDA-approved coronavirus vaccines in late 2020 and 2021, deaths from COVID-19 would have jumped to 4,500 each day during a second “2021 spring surge” spurred on by the Alpha variant that originated in the UK, the study from the Yale School of Public Health and the Commonwealth Fund found.

Instead, vaccinations in the US saved approximately 279,000 lives and prevented up to 1.25 million additional hospitalizations, according to researchers, who studied the impact of vaccination in the country from Dec. 12, 2020, through July 1, 2021.

As of July 7, 157.9 million people in the US were fully vaccinated and another 182.8 had received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Fifty-five percent of the US is fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times vaccination tracker, making it the 17th most vaccinated country globally. But the study notes that millions of Americans remain unvaccinated – a cause for worry as the highly infectious Delta variant takes hold in several states.

In Israel, which saw one of the quickest vaccine rollouts in the world, officials have reinstated some early COVID-19 restrictions like mask-wearing and travel rules, as a result of the Delta variant’s spread.

Experts worry the contagious variant is being spread asymptomatically by those who are vaccinated, which could pose significant problems of “long-COVID” among young people.

Almost all of the COVID-19 deaths in the US are now among the unvaccinated. Only about 0.1% of people who were hospitalized in May for COVID-19 were fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

Since the US began its vaccine program in December, more than 303,000 Americans have died and more than 1.5 million have been hospitalized for COVID-19. But the country’s early rollout, which ramped up in February and March, “played a critical role in curtailing the pandemic,” the study said.

“A renewed commitment to expanding vaccine access will be crucial to achieving higher levels of vaccination necessary to control of the pandemic and prevent avoidable suffering, particularly for those in historically underserved groups and areas of the US with low vaccination rates,” the authors said.

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