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U.S. COVID-19 Vaccination Effort Has Averted an Estimated 2.2M Deaths

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   April 15, 2022

A study makes estimates with and without COVID-19 vaccination in the United States for deaths, hospitalizations, infections, and healthcare costs.

The COVID-19 vaccination effort in the United States has averted millions of deaths and hospitalizations, according to a new study by The Commonwealth Fund and Yale University.

COVID-19 vaccination has been shown to reduce hospitalization and death rates. Compared to vaccinated Americans, unvaccinated Americans have higher rates of hospitalization and death.

The new study is based on a model that accounted for the characteristics of four coronavirus variants—Alpha, Delta, Iota, and Omicron. The model's parameters included U.S. population demographics, pandemic mobility patterns, and age-specific risks of serious health outcomes linked to COVID-19.

In addition to estimating hospitalizations and deaths with and without vaccination, estimated the number of infections and direct healthcare costs associated with COVID-19 with and without vaccination. The cost calculation accounted for expenses related to outpatient visits, hospitalizations, intensive care, emergency medical services calls, and emergency department visits.

The study features four key data points for the period from Dec. 12, 2020, to March 31, 2022:

  • Deaths averted: 2,265,222
     
  • Hospitalizations averted: 17,003,960
     
  • Infections averted: 66,159,093
     
  • Healthcare costs averted: $899.4 billion

The study builds on data generated from an earlier study conducted by The Commonwealth Fund and Yale University that was published in December, the study co-authors wrote in a blog post. "Our findings highlight the profound and ongoing impact of the vaccination program in reducing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. As we noted in our December analysis, vaccines spared the U.S. healthcare system an overwhelming number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. The current analysis confirms and extends the earlier results. Investing in vaccination programs also has produced substantial cost savings—approximately the size of one-fifth of annual national health expenditures—by dramatically reducing the amount spent on COVID-19 hospitalizations."

Congress should continue to support vaccination and booster shot efforts, the co-authors wrote. "The success of the vaccination program in preventing deaths and hospitalizations is obscured somewhat by the nearly 1 million COVID-19 deaths that have occurred since the start of the pandemic. As Congress considers the costs and benefits of extending COVID-19 vaccination, our results show that continuing to vaccinate and boost Americans can produce substantial health benefits and financial returns to the country."

Now is not the time to pull back on vaccination, the co-authors wrote. "Redoubling efforts to increase vaccine uptake, especially among the elderly and other vulnerable groups, will be critical to avert outbreaks as pandemic restrictions are lifted. With continued spread of the [Omicron] BA.2 subvariant, our findings point to the tremendous power of vaccination to reduce disease burden from COVID-19. This may be even more important if newer variants arise or population immunity ebbs."

Related: Study Finds Racial and Ethnic In-Hospital Mortality Disparities During Pandemic

Photo of coronavirus patient on respirator/Photo credit: Alexandros Michailidis

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The study covers the period from Dec. 12, 2020, when COVID-19 vaccinations began, to March 31, 2022.

Vaccinations averted an estimated 17,003,960 hospitalizations.

Vaccinations averted an estimated $899.4 billion in healthcare costs.


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