How many lives in California were saved by COVID-19 vaccines?
How many lives in California were saved by COVID-19 vaccines?

How many lives in California were saved by COVID-19 vaccines?

That the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines December 2020 marked the start of a new, safer phase of the pandemic.

Despite everything we know about life in the vaccine era – the inequalities, the breakthrough infections, the biased struggles for mandates – it has been hard to know what life would have been like without a shot.

A new project from researchers at UC San Francisco in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health paints the clearest picture so far of what the state could have looked like if the vaccines had never turned into anything.

In the first 10 months of their availability, COVID-19 vaccines prevented an estimated 1.5 million coronavirus infections, nearly 73,000 admissions and nearly 20,000 deaths in California, according to a study published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The number of infections reported during the 10 months was 72% lower than one would have expected without vaccines, the study added.

“We know the vaccines work, but what has been lacking is the understanding of the scale at the population level for how much of an impact these vaccines have had in California,” he said. Dr. Nathan Loan infectious disease specialist at UCSF and co-author of the study.

“The impact that vaccines have had and the results we have are dramatic,” Lo said. Each of these thwarted cases represents an opportunity to “let people actually go to work, to be with their family safely, so as not to have such socio-economic disruptions.”

From January 1, 2020 – where only a few Californians could have heard of the new coronavirus, much less been exposed to it – by October 16, 2021, the state registered 4.6 million coronavirus infections. By the end of this period, just over 27 million people aged 12 and over had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine – almost 80% of the eligible population.

To see what a vaccine-free California might have looked like, the research team built a few statistical models – essentially mathematical maps of a world that has never been.

For their primary model, the researchers calculated coronavirus infection rates from November 2020 to October 2021 in children aged 11 and under, the one segment of the state’s population that was still not eligible for vaccines at the time. Then they applied that infection rate to the rest of the population.

The second model took a different approach. Researchers divided the vaccine-eligible population into four age groups and analyzed the estimated risks of infection, hospitalization, and death for each group, along with the immunity each group gained through vaccination and previous infection.

The two models gave strikingly similar results. The primary showed that the first 10 months of the vaccination campaign prevented 1.52 million infections, 72,930 hospitalizations and 19,430 deaths. The secondary estimated that vaccines prevented slightly fewer infections (1.4 million), but more hospitalizations (84,330) and deaths (22,620).

Last year, the Commonwealth Fund, a fund focusing on health care for underserved communities, stated that the US vaccination campaign saved a total of 1.1 million American lives and prevented 10.3 million admissions nationwide by November 30, 2021, a period about six weeks longer than the California survey covered.

In a updated model published earlier this month, analysts estimated that vaccines have prevented 66 million U.S. infections, 17 million hospitalizations and 2.2 million deaths and saved $ 900 billion in health care costs since the administration of the first shot to a nurse in New York.

Figures from California show a more modest effect from the vaccines, but the study’s authors said they deliberately kept their estimates on the conservative side by omitting people who could have been infected if vaccinated individuals had not received their shots.

“The true numbers are certainly significantly higher, which is even more evidence of the importance of vaccination,” said Sophia Tan, a research data researcher at UCSF and lead author of the study.

The models have also omitted the secondary losses of COVID-19 that never happened: the missing days at school or work, the long-term effects of long-term COVID, the potentially devastating financial costs of a long illness or hospitalization, the indefinite grief.

Every person who dies from COVID-19 leaves one estimated nine immediate family membersaccording to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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