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US COVID death toll would be 4X higher without vaccines, modeling study finds

Shots also cut millions of hospitalizations and $1.5 trillion in medical bills.

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Enlarge / A woman watches white flags on the National Mall on September 18, 2021, in Washington, DC. Over 660,000 white flags were installed here to honor Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19. (credit: Getty | Chen Mengtong)

Without COVID-19 vaccines, the US would have seen four times more deaths from the pandemic virus—an additional 3 million lives lost—as well as nearly four times more hospitalizations, 1.5 times more infections, and an additional $1.5 trillion in medical bills since December of 2020.

Those are the top-line results from a new modeling study by the Commonwealth Fund, which simulated the unmitigated effects of COVID-19 in the US from December 2020 to November 2022.

The age-stratified model accounted for US demographics, the prevalence of disease-enhancing comorbidities, social networks, limited social contact during pandemic restrictions, COVID-19 case data, hospitalization rates, vaccination administration eligibility and rates, vaccine efficacy estimates, waning protection from vaccination and infection, and the characteristics of five SARS-CoV-2 variants (Iota, Alpha, Gamma, Delta, Omicron). The model was calibrated to replicate real-world data of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths before the researchers removed vaccines from the scenario.

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