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How effective are the COVID vaccines at present?


I’ve crunched some CDC numbers on the question of how much protection the COVID vaccines are currently offering against dying from COVID.

A couple of caveats:

(1) These are mortality stats, so they don’t say anything about about what sort of protection the vaccines offer against serious and/or long-term illness from the disease. The most reasonable assumption would be that the rates of risk reduction would be similar, but that’s a guesstimate.

(2) The stats are two months old, but since the rolling daily average of COVID deaths in the USA has been pretty much stuck between 300 and 400 a day since mid-April they probably represent the current situation pretty closely.

OK, the numbers:

Annual mortality rate from COVID among the unvaccinated, all ages:

285 per 100,000

Vaccinated no booster: 48 per 100,000

Vaccinated single booster:  37 per 100,000

Vaccinated double booster: 12 per 100,000

Annual all-cause mortality rate in the USA pre-COVID pandemic, all ages: 867 per 100,000

Mortality rate from COVID by age group:

Among 65+ years old

Unvaccinated:  569 per 100,000

Vaccinated no booster:  90 per 100,000

Vaccinated single booster: 76 per 100,000

Vaccinated double booster: 26 per 100,000

Baseline annual all-cause mortality rate in this cohort pre-COVID was about 5,000 per 100,000

Among 50-64 years old

Unvaccinated: 47 per 100,000

Vaccinated no booster:  12

Vaccinated single booster:  5 per 100,000

Vaccinated double booster:  Zero

Baseline annual all-cause morality rate in this age group pre-COVID was about 700 per 100,000

You might be curious about the zero figure. I’m extrapolating here from weekly reports, and it so happens that in the last week of May 2022, which represents the most recent data, not a single double boosted person in the United States between the ages of 50-64 died of COVID. This is pretty remarkable given that there are about 40 million people in that age group in the population. Looking back over the previous several weeks, this was also the case in most of them: zero deaths from COVID among the double boosted in this age group.

A couple of general observations:

Being double boosted clearly lowers mortality risk by a significant amount, even compared to being single boosted.

If you’re under 65 and vaccinated at all, your mortality risk from COVID is negligible. (Again, note caveats about serious and long-term illness).

So the key takeaway here is that it would seem especially important to focus on double boosting the elderly. Given that the percentage of the population that’s boosted at all is currently 34% (I can’t find figures on how many of those people are double boosted) there’s obviously quite a bit of work to do.

Note that current mortality rates — that is, those that have been prevalent since the end of the Omicron wave — would still produce about 130,000 annual deaths from COVID in the USA, which some people might consider a lot.

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