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Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine prevented more than 100,000 U.S. deaths in 2021, study finds


Nearly 9 million symptomatic cases also avoided

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (BNT162b2) prevented about 110,000 deaths and 700,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. and saved more than $70 billion in health care costs and lost productivity in 2021, a new study finds.

The vaccine, which first became available in December 2020, was the only one with FDA approval in 2021. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that fifty-seven percent of fully vaccinated individuals in 2021 received the Pfizer vaccine, the highest proportion of the vaccinated population.

The study’s authors all received funding from Pfizer, either as employees, consultants or employed of companies paid by Pfizer. To carry out the study, the authors first developed a combined Markov and decision tree model. Then they entered both real-world and trial data into the model to estimate the one-year public health impact of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine compared with no vaccine.

The data they used included the number of vaccines administered, and the vaccine’s efficacy in different age groups, as well as the probability of catching COVID-19, developing symptoms and being hospitalized. They also accounted for the effects of Long COVID and the number of working days likely to have been lost due to short-term illness and the economic cost of premature deaths.

They found that compared to no vaccination, the two-dose series of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine prevented almost 8.7 million symptomatic cases of the disease, averted approximately 690,000 hospitalizations, and saved over 110,000 lives.

In addition, the reductions in COVID-19 symptomatic cases were associated with $43.7 billion in productivity gains. Around 36% of the gain came from preventing productivity loss due to early death, with the remainder due to avoiding workdays lost to illness.

The authors note their findings didn’t include the vaccine’s potential to reduce transmission of COVID-19 or its severity, and thus may underestimate the full impact of the vaccine.

“The analyses show that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine contributed substantial public health impact in the U.S. in 2021, and had a deep effect on the trajectory of the pandemic,” Manuela Di Fusco, senior director, health economics and outcomes research at Pfizer and one of the study’s authors, said in an accompanying press release. She added that the results “highlight the opportunity to continue widespread vaccination uptake to prevent COVID-19 related disease and generate societal benefits.”

The study, “Public health impact of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (BNT162b2) in the first year of rollout in the United States,” appears in the Journal of Medical Economics and was published online May 15.

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