Florida, Texas Could Have Averted 4700 Deaths With Higher Vax Rate: Study

Marcia Frellick

August 13, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center .

The two states with the highest numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths currently —  Florida and Texas — could have averted 4716 deaths by the end of July if they had matched the average vaccination rates of the five highest-performing states, researchers calculate in a new report.

Researchers with the Commonwealth Fund, led by Pratha Sah, MD, associate research scientist in epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, compared the average rate of fully vaccinated adults in Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island (74%) with the rate in Florida and Texas, which had fully vaccinated only 59.3% and 55.6% of adults, respectively.

Through modeling, they estimated the hospitalizations and deaths that could have been averted with the higher rates.

Table. Estimated Averted Hospitalizations, Deaths With 74% Vaccination by July 31

State Cases Hospitalizations Deaths
Florida 275,124 38,649 2806
Texas 193,197 32,303 1910

 

The number of cases could have come down dramatically in both states with 74% vaccination coverage by July 31 since the start of vaccination on December 12, 2020, the researchers report — 1.3 million cases instead of 1.5 million in Florida and 1.5 million cases instead of 1.7 million in Texas.

With the Delta variant, numbers have continued to surge, particularly in low-vaccination states. As of August 11, the authors note, the 7-day average of new daily cases in the United States had passed 118,000, higher than the peak the summer before.

As Medscape Medical News reported, last week Florida broke COVID-19 records several times. The state is reporting more daily cases than any other and accounts for 1 in 5 new infections nationwide.

In Texas, as of August 5, the rolling 7-day average of new COVID-19 cases had soared by 92% from the previous week, while hospitalizations rose by 49% and fatalities grew by 15%, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

A Dallas CNBC affiliate reported today that hospitals in Texas are again suspending elective procedures and have deployed 2500 medical workers from other states to help fight a surge in cases as younger and healthier patients who didn’t get vaccinated crowd treatment floors.

The Commonwealth Fund researchers report that more than 7 million residents in Florida and 9 million in Texas are eligible to be vaccinated but have not been.

How Numbers Were Calculated

The team expanded its peer-reviewed, age-stratified, agent-based model of COVID-19 spread by inputting transmission dynamics of four SARS-CoV-2 variants: Alpha, Gamma, Delta, and the original Wuhan-1 variant.

The model was adjusted with demographic information from the states, mobility patterns, disease characteristics, and age-specific risks of severe health outcomes due to COVID-19.

"We incorporated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on daily vaccine doses administered in these states," the authors write. "We drew on published estimates to account for vaccine efficacies against infection, symptomatic, and severe disease for different vaccine types, tailoring them to each variant, and factored in time since vaccination.

The model was calibrated to reported incidence in each state between October 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021, and was validated with hospitalization and death trends during that period.

The authors have reported no relevant financial relationships.

Marcia Frellick is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News, and Nurse.com and was an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick

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