COVID-19 vaccines could have prevented at least 318,000 virus-related deaths between January 2021 and April 2022, a new analysis found.
The analysis used real-world data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The New York Times and was done by researchers from Brown School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Microsoft AI for Health.
Their findings suggest that at least "every second person" who died from COVID since vaccines became available might have been saved by getting the shot.
"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. "We must continue to invest in getting more Americans vaccinated and boosted to save more lives."
Although the national average indicated that approximately 50% of deaths were preventable, researchers said there were large differences among states -- ranging from 25% to 74% vaccine-preventable deaths.
West Virginia, Wyoming, Tennessee, Kentucky and Oklahoma lead the list of states where the most lives could have been saved by COVID-19 vaccines, while states with higher vaccination rates, such as Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Vermont and Hawaii, showed the lowest numbers of vaccine-preventable deaths.
"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," added 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.
The study comes just as the nation surpasses 1 million lives confirmed lost to COVID-19.
"It is really painful as a scientist, a physician and a public health official to see the overwhelming data that showed the difference between vaccinated versus unvaccinated and boosted when it comes to hospitalizations and deaths," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House's chief medical adviser, said during an interview with CNN last week. "You have this disparity of morbidity and mortality, that staring you right in the face and it's amazing -- 1 million deaths."
To date, more than 220 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, 100 million of whom have received their first COVID-19 booster, according to CDC data. However, about 92 million eligible Americans -- about half of those currently eligible -- have yet to receive their first booster shot.
"Certainly, we could have prevented at least a few 100,000 of those deaths of people who were eligible to be vaccinated, gotten vaccinated," Fauci said. "I just wish people would look at the data and believe the data it's not made up. It's real."