New study finds vaccinations have saved thousands of lives in NC, but could have saved more

A man wears a ‘I Do Not Comply’ pin at a protest against masks, COVID-19 vaccines, and vaccine passports outside the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control on March 13, 2021. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage | Getty Images

Researchers from the Brown University School of Public Health reported this week that COVID-19 vaccinations have saved thousands of lives — both across the country and in North Carolina — but could have saved many more.

More than 1 million Americans have died from COVID-19, and the researchers concluded that nearly one-third — more than 318,000 of those deaths — could have been prevented if more people were vaccinated. North Carolina has suffered more than 24,000 deaths and, as the report notes, more than 16,000 people have died from COVID-19 since vaccines became available in early 2021.

Thanks largely to the Cooper administration’s leadership, North Carolina actually did a better job than a lot of southern states in vaccinating its population, but on the whole, the state’s overall vaccination rate of 61.8% still trails the national average of 67.4%. (The vaccination rate in South Carolina, for instance, is only 56.6%. In Georgia, it’s only 54.9%).

What’s more, according to the Brown report, it’s possible to accurately estimate how many lives would have been saved here if the state had achieved higher vaccination rates.

If our state had achieved an 85% vaccination rate, for example, the researchers determined that we would have seen 5,389 fewer deaths. At a 90% vaccination rate, 6,462 lives would have been saved. And at 100%, the lives saved figure would have risen to 8,604 — that is to say, more than half of those who died since 2021 could have been saved.

The bottom line: while it’s true that achieving a 100% vaccination rate is all but impossible for any vaccine, the report provides still more compelling evidence that vaccines save lives and that North Carolina leaders did the right thing by combating the lies and misinformation spread by vaccination opponents.

What’s more, it still not too late to make more headway. While recent COVID variants have shown a maddening capacity for infecting vaccinated people, it’s also clear that vaccinations have helped assure that thousands of people have gotten much less sick than they would have otherwise.

Note: A story prepared by Dillon Rosenblatt for the Arizona Mirror helped inform this report.

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