- In the two years since the COVID-19 vaccine became available for U.S. patients, the country’s vaccination program prevented more than 18.5 million hospitalizations and 3.2 million deaths, according to new research from the Commonwealth Fund and Yale School of Public Health.
- Many millions of infections were prevented, preserving hospital resources for patients who otherwise would not have received timely care, the researchers said. The vaccine also saved the country $1.15 trillion in medical costs, kept children in school and allowed businesses to reopen, the study said.
- To arrive at its findings, the study used a computer model of disease transmission, comparing the pandemic trajectory to a simulated scenario without a vaccination program. The results can be used to inform future evidence-based decisions on vaccine use to reduce disease burden, the researchers said.
Since December 2020, 82 million infections, 4.8 million hospitalizations, and 798,000 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S., according to the study.
Roughly 655 million COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in the U.S. between December 2020 and November 2022, with 80% of the population receiving at least one dose. Without these vaccinations, nearly 120 million more COVID-19 infections would have been likely, the study projected.
While many aspects of the global COVID-19 response, from unprepared national governments to lack of international cooperation, have drawn harsh criticism, the arrival of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines less than a year after researchers first identified the novel coronavirus is considered a historic achievement of medical science.
The swift development of the vaccine, emergency authorization to distribute it widely and a rapid rollout were instrumental in curbing hospitalizations and deaths, the Commonwealth Fund and Yale study authors said.
Vaccination reduced not only COVID-19 incidence but also symptom severity as well as risk of long COVID and reinfections, which carry a higher chance of death compared to initial infections, the study noted.
When the Omicron variants arrived, causing the largest wave of infections, available monovalent vaccines were not as effective as bivalent boosters introduced later, but the impact would have been worse in the absence of vaccination, the researchers said.