60% of US COVID-19 Deaths Preventable

Some 230,000 Americans have died needlessly since vaccinations became widely available.

YahooNews (“Vaccinations could have prevented quarter-million COVID deaths in U.S.“):

A new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that nearly a quarter-million COVID-19 deaths in the United States could have been prevented through vaccination.

“We find that approximately 234,000 deaths since June 2021 could have been prevented with primary series vaccination,” reads the report, published Thursday. “These vaccine-preventable deaths represent 60% of all adult COVID-19 deaths since June 2021, and a quarter (24%) of the nearly 1 million COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began.”

The analysis is based on the fact that COVID-19 vaccines were available to nearly all U.S. adults by May 2021. It does not factor in the potential effects of boosters, although KFF said that if it did so, it would have likely found more preventable deaths. Children were excluded from the analysis.

As I’ve noted before, vaccine hesitancy is widespread and most prevalent among non-voters. And, sadly, they’re almost completely unpersuadable by evidence like this. Still, the hyper politicization of this issue by former President Trump and right-wing media is certainly a major contributing factor.

In November 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the unvaccinated were 14 times more likely to die if they contracted the virus than those who had received the shots. However, vaccinations were downplayed or demonized by right-wing media, with a KFF study late last year finding that Americans who trusted conservative outlets were more likely to believe COVID misinformation. Conservative media has downplayed the virus and questioned methods recommended by public health experts in combating it, from masking to vaccines. Fox News hosts have elevated anti-vax voices while promoting drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, the latter of which is prescribed as an antimalarial in humans but also as a dewormer in livestock. A large study published this month found that ivermectin did not reduce the risk of COVID hospitalizations.

Other data has shown that death rates were higher in counties won by Donald Trump in the 2020 election versus those won by Joe Biden. When Trump urged supporters at an August 2021 rally to get vaccinated, he was booed, and was again booed months later when he revealed he had received a booster shot.

“In the spring of 2020, the areas recording the greatest numbers of deaths were much more likely to vote Democratic than Republican,” read an analysis from Pew Research published in March. “But by the third wave of the pandemic, which began in fall 2020, the pattern had reversed: Counties that voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden were suffering substantially more deaths from the coronavirus pandemic than those that voted for Biden over Trump.”

This isn’t surprising. Democrats do better, for a host of reasons, in major urban centers where the disease was spreading much more quickly. But, for many of the same reasons—even apart from politics—those in major urban centers are more likely to get vaccinated. So, naturally, the trend reversed.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    It’s not just that post-vaccine deaths were preventable, but also that cases themselves increased needlessly from the beginning due to horrific mismanagement by the Trump administration.

    South Korea and the United States got their first logged/official case on the same day in 2020. We have had enormously different experiences since that day – 100% due to leadership differences.

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  2. MarkedMan says:

    I find that putting COVID statistics in their proper place is hard. It would easy to read that top line number and think, “Well, if the vaccine was worthless the split would be 50/50, so at 60/40 it helps but not dramatically”. In fact the key is farther down:

    In November 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the unvaccinated were 14 times more likely to die if they contracted the virus than those who had received the shots.

    So why isn’t the real split 14/1 (93%)? Because so many people are vaccinated. Two thirds of Americans overall are vaccinated and, more importantly, the vaccination rate is very high amongst older Americans who are the most likely to die if they get it. 92% for 65-74 and 86% 75 and above. And if you look at sensible states you will find rates as high as 99% in those groups.

    If you do the math, the vaccines have saved millions and millions of lives. Yes, it’s tragic that several hundred thousand people have died that didn’t need to, because of their own ignorance. But shouldn’t we be celebrating the millions and millions who are alive today because we developed a vaccine in record time and got it into arms in a national rollout unlike anything since WWII?

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  3. Michael Cain says:

    @Tony W:
    And preplanning. South Korea passed laws years back that set things up so the government could “draft” all sorts of facilities as soon as they declared an emergency. Once there was a reliable test, all the companies that could produce them were ordered to do so regardless of what else they might have contracts for. At universities with suitable labs, students and faculty with the necessary training worked long shifts processing those tests quickly enough that contact tracing and isolation could be effective.

    SARS scared them badly enough to get prepared.

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Conservative media has downplayed the virus and questioned methods recommended by public health experts in combating it, from masking to vaccines. Fox News hosts have elevated anti-vax voices

    Pro-Life my ass. That’s what it says on the back of my truck but I would bet $100 I couldn’t find a local denizen who would have a clue of what I’m talking about.

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  5. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I think because only one person in the history of the world has ever noticed the dog that doesn’t bark (and I think he was fictional). The gods may contend in vain against stupidity, but they don’t do well against biases, either.

    @Tony W:

    Unfortunately, most of the countries that did well early against the trump pandemic have succumbed to pandemic fatigue. South Korea has pretty much caught up, albeit with a lower death rate. So have New Zealand and Vietnam.

    As to prevention and mitigation efforts, including vaccines, I offer myself as an example. I adopted regular hand washing and distancing at once, and masks rather early in mid-April 2020 (albeit a cloth mask to start with, then pleated masks for a while). I got the vaccine (Pfizer) as soon as I could, and a booster (AZ) as well. I’ve also been working nearly every workday through the pandemic, and as far as I know I haven’t caught the virus the Republicans love.

    I concede I may have gone through an asymptomatic course and not noticed. But even so I’ve kept distancing and masking throughout.

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  6. Scott says:

    I think we are at the point in the pandemic where the public health response to it has been largely successful. All the tools are in place to minimize the consequences if people choose to use those tools. I think we, as a nation, need to move beyond the government mandates and go to the next phase: the use of economic incentives to motivate people to get vaccinated, boosted, etc. People need to bear the consequences of their irresponsible behavior. Health insurers are best capable of assessing the cost of risk by people who refuse to vaccinate. Just like for smokers, a increase in health insurance premiums for the unvaccinated is in order. Or as positive motivation, a decrease in premiums for the vaccinated. I pretty sure more creative minds than mine can come up with suitable positive or negative motivators.

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  7. James Joyner says:

    @Tony W: But these data start five months into the Biden administration.

  8. Tony W says:

    @James Joyner: I understand that, my point is that Trump laid the groundwork to have a significant portion of the country come down on the side of spreading the virus around as efficiently as possible. That legacy of attitude continues today.

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    I still believe what I’ve said here before: fifty years from now public health officials will think that the US did pretty good. Not great, and not terrible. But I’ll add to that: they will also be using the Trump abandonment of the detailed pandemic response plan as an object lesson in what can happen when PH officials don’t have adequate voices in government.

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  10. grumpy realist says:

    Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do when people refuse to believe reality. They die. Let them. Stupidity should hurt.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: Unfortunately, in this case stupidity, or really the consequence of stupidity, is contagious.

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  12. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    By now, I don’t think any country did well, given what I’ve noted above about New Zealand, et. al.

    By country I mean whole countries. Some governments did well, some people did reasonably well in the face of lack of government support and/or guidance. But overall I need to give humanity an F in pandemic handling.

    The one crucial thing I think we’ve learned is that measures that are too hard will be resisted more, and won’t be sustained long enough. I mean specifically lockdown, closing schools, closing stores and workplaces, etc.

    To be fair, it was thought to be the best thing to do, and many, myself included, expected it would end the trump pandemic in weeks, or a couple of months at most.

    What I’d suggest is to go directly with masks, capacity restrictions, some targeted closures where too many people gather in enclosed spaces, distancing, hygiene, and suggestions not to leave home when not necessary, and to forego or reduce most social gatherings as well (and to hold them with fewer people in ventilated spaces with plenty of distancing). And rapid and widespread vaccination when it’s available.

    That, IMO, would have worked better with a stubborn, non-seasonal virus, which apparently finds many reservoirs from which to infect people.

    The problem with what I propose is how resistant people are to masks. And it doesn’t help when leaders don’t set the example. Not just Benito, but a hell of a lot of other world leaders, not to mention the boss at your workplace.

    So, next time, the best we can do is hope it won’t be too deadly. Because we’ve shown we don’t care enough about our own lives, never mind those of others, to take simple precautions and suffer some inconvenience.

  13. Kathy says:

    Case in point. A coworker who was recently rehired could have gotten the two dose vaccine between June and September last year didn’t take it until January.

    Why?

    “I was too busy, there were too many people, I forgot about it, etc.”

    Good thing SARS-CoV-2 has never infected anyone who delayed the vaccine because they were too busy, right?

  14. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    The one crucial thing I think we’ve learned is that measures that are too hard will be resisted more, and won’t be sustained long enough. I mean specifically lockdown, closing schools, closing stores and workplaces, etc.

    We delayed the worst of it in the US until vaccines and treatments were available.

    Yes, things are awful using 2018 as a benchmark, but far better than they could have been (using, say, India as a benchmark — not saying that they had the resources to protect themselves and failed, just that they were hit hard and show what could have been). Less worse is not a bad thing.

    We have a lot of room for improvement, but the number of deaths in the US has been greatly reduced.

    Here’s hoping we start figuring out long Covid treatments…

  15. Paul L says:

    More Covid deaths under Biden who followed CDC orders that are above Judicial review are the fault of Trump!!!!!

  16. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    We delayed the worst of it in the US until vaccines and treatments were available.

    Not really. The surges in Summer of 2020 and Winter 2020-2021 were largely the original strain and Alpha variant.

    Granted 1) vaccines were available in late 2020, but very limited, and 2) Delta was the big killer even after vaccines.

    The big problem is that prevention and mitigation measures need to be widespread. It’s exactly like vaccination: yes, the measures protect you, but we really need for everyone to adopt them so everyone will be protected, and in order to keep the pandemic as short as possible.

    We know this won’t happen.

  17. Kathy says:

    @Paul L:

    Congratulations. You finally got one thing right.

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  18. Jax says:

    @Kathy: You’re effin funny. 😛

    I wonder if he even realizes that an outsized number of the quarter of a million living, breathing, VOTING people who died unnecessarily because they refused to get a life-saving vaccine are most likely his conservative brethren?

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  19. Kathy says:

    @Jax:

    It would be hilarious if the Democrats managed to hold on to Congress because too many voters who’d have gone Republican currently reside 6 ft under the ground.

    Assuming, that is, the survivors don’t go on another made up electoral fraud spree and finish wrecking the country instead.

  20. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy:

    By now, I don’t think any country did well,

    That’s one way of looking at it, and certainly valid. Another way is to that this was a deadly virus and it was going to get a lot of people. Some areas had their death rate delayed and reshuffled but in the end every country got hit. However, the early vaccine made a huge, huge difference. We can talk ad nauseum about the things we could have done differently and the low vax rate, but the reality is that the oldest died at a rate 1000 times of the youngest, and they were heavily vaxxed. Sure, Trump staters are dying beyond what they need to, but the hold-my-beer cohort always do