The United States’ early rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations may have saved nearly 140,000 lives, a new study suggests. One missing piece of the study, however, is disparities: At the time of the study, lead researcher Sumedha Gupta, an associate professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis says there was no data on vaccinations by race, so her team could not assess whether people of color benefited less.
It’s well known that Black and Hispanic Americans were particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, and it’s also become clear that they are lagging behind white Americans in getting vaccinated.
As of this week, 72% of U.S. adults have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Black and Hispanic adults remain less likely to have received a dose, but the gap may be narrowing, the foundation says: In the past two weeks, an increasing share of vaccine doses have gone to people of color, based on federal data. News of the FDA granting full approval of the Pfizer vaccine may also sway more people to get vaccinated.
Using data on state vaccination campaigns and COVID-19 deaths, researchers estimate that immunizations prevented 139,393 deaths nationwide between December 2020 and early May 2021.
On the state level, vaccinations prevented an average of five deaths for every 10,000 residents, according to the report.
Researchers say the findings send a powerful message at a time when COVID-19 cases are on the rise due to the highly contagious Delta variant.
“These vaccines have saved so many lives, and that’s important for people to know,” Gupta says.
The findings also underline the importance of vaccinating people around the globe: Worldwide, COVID-19 is blamed for upwards of 4 million deaths and counting.
The United States accounts for over 600,000 of those deaths. But without vaccinations, that figure would have been significantly worse Gupta notes.
Over a year-and-a-half into the global pandemic, people are used to the