The quick rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. saved an estimated 279,000 lives and prevented 1.25 million hospitalizations, a new study finds.
The study, released Wednesday, warns, however, that surges of new cases due to the highly transmissible delta variant could reverse these gains.
“Until a greater majority of Americans are vaccinated, many more people could still die from this virus,” said Alison Galvani, Ph.D., director of the Yale Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis, which conducted the study alongside the Commonwealth Fund.
The study looked at what would have happened without the U.S. vaccination campaign that administered more than 328 million vaccine doses since July 2.
If the U.S. had only achieved half of that pace, there could have been an additional 121,000 deaths and more than 450,000 hospitalizations.
“If there had been no vaccination program, daily deaths from COVID-19 potentially would have jumped to nearly 4,500 deaths per day during a second ‘2021 spring surge’—eclipsing the observed daily peak of 4,000 during the first 2021 winter surge,” the study said.
Researchers expanded COVID-19 models to include several variants including the alpha, gamma and delta variants.
The model then compared two scenarios: “one in which no vaccination program occurred and another under which daily vaccinations were administered at only half the actual daily pace," the study said.
“The speed of vaccination seems to have prevented another potential wave of the U.S. pandemic in April that might otherwise have been triggered by the Alpha and Gamma variants,” the study said.
The study comes as the Biden administration is stepping up its efforts to address vaccine hesitancy as the more transmissible delta variant makes up half of all U.S. cases now.
“We need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door—literally knocking on doors—to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus,” Biden said during a speech Tuesday.
He said the administration is working to get more vaccines in the hands of family doctors, who are the most trusted by hesitant Americans.
The administration is also sending out more mobile vaccine clinics to events and festivals in an effort to distribute shots.