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Higher vaccination rates in Texas and Florida could've saved 4,700 lives, study finds

Epidemiologists used hospitalization rates from highly vaccinated states like Connecticut and Vermont to calculate excess deaths in Texas and Florida
Covid Lungs
Posted at 8:12 AM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 09:12:44-04

(NBC News) - More than 4,700 lives lost to Covid-19 in Florida and Texas could have been saved if those states had higher vaccination rates, according to a study released on Thursday.

The study from the Commonwealth Fund, a private health care endowment, was conducted by an international team of epidemiologists and data scientists. The analysis compared the Covid hospitalization and death rates of a group of states like Vermont and Connecticut, which had fully vaccinated roughly 3 in 4 adults on average, with those of Florida and Texas, where roughly 1 in 2 adults are fully vaccinated.

"Outbreaks are predominantly affecting states that have relatively low vaccination coverage, with nearly a third of recent cases occurring in Florida and Texas," the researchers wrote, warning that the highly infectious delta variant would only worsen matters.

The estimated toll: Higher vaccination rates in these two states could have prevented more than 70,000 hospitalizations and 4,700 deaths by the end of July.

"We found that enhanced vaccination would have markedly curbed the rise of cases in Florida and Texas — averting more than 460,000 cases. Since the start of vaccination on Dec. 12, 2020, until July 31, 2021, Florida and Texas have reported more than 1.5 million and 1.7 million cases, respectively," the researchers wrote. "Achieving 74 percent vaccination coverage by July 31, 2021, could have reduced the case count to approximately 1.3 million cases in Florida and 1.5 million cases in Texas."

The study said more than 7 million Florida residents and 9 million Texas residents who are eligible for the vaccination remain unvaccinated, and many of them are in danger.

"If estimates through the end of July hold true, many of these people will suffer through hospitalizations, and some will likely die — making more rigorous vaccination campaigns in those states all the more imperative," they concluded.

Pratha Sah, a Yale researcher who contributed to the study, told NBC News in a statement "the U.S. has entered another wave of COVID-19 pandemic driven by the Delta variant."

"The vaccines authorized in the US are effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalizations against the Delta variant. It is therefore not surprising that there is a clear correlation between vaccination coverage and viral transmission level across the states in the US," Sah wrote.

"Accelerating vaccination coverage is critical to combat the current COVID-19 wave driven by the Delta variant and potentially other looming variants in the future," she continued.

As cases surge across the country, experts told NBC News this delta-variant-driven rise was "completely preventable" and warned it will get worse before it gets better, with the return of long testing lines and dwindling intensive care unit beds in hard-hit Southern states.

In Florida, amid heated debate over requiring masks for children as classes are set to resume within days, the federal government this week sent hundreds of ventilators to help the state respond to its record number of Covid hospitalizations.