INDIANAPOLIS — A new study by Indiana University and RAND Corp. researchers found that 139,393 deaths were prevented during the first five months of vaccination efforts in the United States.
Researchers used Bloomberg and New York Times data from all 50 states to estimate the number of COVID-19 deaths for those 16 and older that would have prevailed in the absence of vaccinations between Dec. 21, 2020, (the date of the first vaccination in the U.S.) and May 9, 2021.
"The reason we kind of stopped at that point ... by May, pretty much universally we had reached the stage where everybody 12 and over was eligible for vaccination. We had reached sort of a steady state," Sumedha Gupta, the lead author on the study and associate professor of economics at IUPUI, said.
The study is the first the researchers know of that uses actual vaccine data. Previously, some simulation studies were done to project what might happen once the vaccine came out.
"Our team realized that of course projections based on simulations play an important role, but because vaccine trials are in such a controlled setting, the actual effect, the efficacy of the vaccine in the population can deviate from those simulations," Gupta said.
The team found the average state experienced five fewer deaths from COVID-19 per 10,000 adult residents. The data was adjusted for state's populations.
New York saw the largest estimated reduction, with 11.7 fewer COVID-19 deaths per 10,000 adults, and Hawaii observed the smallest reduction, with 1.1 fewer COVID-19 deaths per 10,000.
“By comparing what is the reduction in COVID-19 deaths in the high vaccination states versus the low vaccination states, we are able to estimate what is the change in morbidity and mortality related to the vaccinations," Gupta said. "If the vaccination rate is what it is and had the vaccinations not been there at all, what would have been the trajectory of the COVID-19 mortality? And the difference between those two, we attribute to the vaccination.”
Gupta hopes the study conveys that vaccines are the best bet in order to get the pandemic under control.
"I think the message is by far what we have right now, vaccines do remain the most reliable means to check the pandemic and I think the message is mostly unified coming from science," Gupta said.
To read the study, click here.