While the vaccine rollout has snagged, the effort has already saved thousands.
The currently available COVID-19 vaccines have cut the number of fatalities due to the disease by nearly 140,000.
According to a news release from the National Institutes of Health, a study was performed seeking to assess the impact of state-level vaccination campaigns. Its authors analyzed the period between Dec. 21 to May 9 and compared the amount of time each state took to reach a series of milestones beginning with five doses per 100 adults to 120 doses per 100 adults. They also calculated the number of vaccine doses per 100 adults at the end of each week.
COVID-19 vaccines have prevented more than 139,000 deaths during the first five months they were made available. Through May 9 of this year 570,000 Americans died due to COVID-19. The model the researchers used for the study projected there would have been 709,000 deaths without the vaccine, the release says.
The researchers estimate that the economic value of saving these lives was between $625 billion and $1.4 trillion, according to the release.
The reduction in deaths varied in different states with vaccinations in New York leading to an estimated 11.7 fewer COVID-19 deaths per 10,000 while Hawaii saw the smallest reduction at just 1.1 fewer deaths per 10,000, the release says.
“This study brings into focus the dramatic success of the early months of the nation’s coronavirus vaccine rollout,” Christopher Whaley of the RAND corporation, who helped lead the research team, says in the release.
The researchers note that the study has limitations, such as an inability to distinguish between the role of vaccination from increases in natural immunity or social distancing policies on the number of COVID-19 deaths, according to the release.
The news comes while the nation gears up for another vaccination push, as the government will make third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines available to all Americans starting next month.
Reportedly, the decision came after the administration reviewed a wide array of data and concluded that the additional shots are needed to maintain immunity against COVID-19. For now, the Biden administration will not recommend an additional dose for those who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as the government still reviews data.
The move comes as the Delta variant has driven up the numbers of COVID-19 infections across the country and has led to a rash of breakthrough infections among the already vaccinated.
Earlier in the month, when administration officials first hinted at the move, they said it would be dependent on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization, but there’s been no reports of a timeline for such authorization.
The agency has already expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose vaccines to allow for a third dose to the estimated 3 percent of Americans, or about 9 million, with weakened immune systems. The vaccines are believed to be less effective in this group of people, but the initial hope was that widespread vaccinations would protect the immunocompromised population. As of Aug. 25, slightly more than half of eligible Americans, 167.1 million, have been fully vaccinated.