Covid’s Preventable Deaths

The United States is headed toward one-million deaths attributable to Covid-19.  West Virginia had recorded 6,823 Covid-related deaths as of last week. Each death is a tragedy, a life cut short by a relentless virus, a loss that caused heartache and suffering among family and friends left behind.

For all of us, death is inevitable… at some point, but new research suggests many Covid victims did not have to die. They died because they missed out on potentially life-saving vaccinations.

A just-released study by the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) estimates that “approximately 234,000 deaths since June 2021 could have been prevented with primary series vaccination.  These vaccine-preventable deaths represent 60 percent of adult Covid-19 deaths since June 2021 and a quarter (24 percent) of the nearly one million Covid-19 deaths since the pandemic began.”

The study does not break the numbers down by state, but let’s do the rough math. About 4,000 West Virginians died from Covid between June 2021 and now. If the national average applies and 60 percent could have been prevented, that’s 2,400 people.

Children were excluded from the study since the vaccines were not available to them during the test period and children “represent less than one percent of Covid deaths.” Additionally, as the Washington Post reported, “Peterson and KFF analyzed the monthly death toll, parsing out vaccination status and controlling both for age (older Americans are still at increased risk of death, even when vaccinated) and for imperfect efficacy of the vaccines.”

West Virginia was first in the nation to get vaccines to older residents by rushing shots to nursing homes. The state and local health offices then followed up with community clinics where individuals lined up for shots.

However, as time went on, interest in vaccinations waned here and across the country. Anti-vaxers used right-wing media and conspiracy theories to discourage individuals from getting their shots. Doctors and nurses told stories of really sick people showing up at the emergency room wishing they had been vaccinated, but by then it was too late.

Despite months of good-faith efforts by state and local government leaders and health officials encouraging people to get their shots, only a little over half of the Mountain State’s population is fully vaccinated. Governor Justice is encouraging individuals who are over 50 or have a compromised immune system to get the second booster.

The vaccinations are not 100 percent effective against sickness or even death. DHHR figures show that 15 percent all Covid deaths since the vaccines became available have been individuals who had their shots. But that also means 85 percent of the deaths were people who were not fully vaccinated.

The vaccine is a miracle drug, life-saving medicine that arrived in record time. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many did not take advantage of the vaccines, and that significantly contributed to the number of preventable deaths.


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