Could Vermont-like vaccination rates have saved 143,000 U.S. lives?

This morning, George Conway (yes, that George Conway) asked a reasonable question on Twitter:

Has anyone estimated how many American lives would have been saved if the entire country had gotten vaccinated at the rates at which people in, say Vermont or Portugal, or at which registered Democrats, have gotten vaccinated?

This is a serious question.

— George Conway (@gtconway3d) February 3, 2022

Several people asked me to chime in.

Now, according to the CDC, Vermont had around 250 total COVID-19 deaths reported as of June 30th, 2021, and is now up to more than double that (516), which means they've had around 266 deaths out of 643,000 residents since 6/30/21, or 41.4 per 100K.

Vermont has also 2-dose vaccinated roughly 77% of its total population (state health dept. dashboard puts it at 80% of residents 5 & older; CDC data has it at 77% of all residents).

By comparison, nationally there were 604,146 COVID deaths as of 6/30/21 and 888,784 as of yesterday. That's 284,638 since 6/30/21 out of roughly 332 million Americans, or roughly 85.6 per 100K over the past seven months.

However, I knew that there'd be all sorts of criticisms if I simply used Vermont's a tiny, rural state, after all, with a nearly all-White, older than average population, etc's not particularly representative of the country at large.

So, I fired up my county-level spreadsheet, ran some filters and responded:

--U.S. national cumulative COVID death rate since 6/30/21 is 85.6/100K
--VT has 2-dose vaxxed ~77% of its total population.
--The 147 most-vaxxed U.S. counties have 2-dose vaxxed ~77% of their total pops.
--Those 147 counties have a COVID death rate since 6/30/21 of 43.0/100K

— Charles #GetCovered-ba (@charles_gaba) February 3, 2022

That's right: The 147 U.S. counties with the highest vaccination rates roughly match Vermont's statewide vaccination rate...and also happen to have roughly the same COVID death rate since the end of June as Vermont itself (OK, slightly higher...43.0 instead of 41.4 per 100,000 residents).

This suggests that if 77% of the entire U.S. population was 2-dose vaxxed by now (evenly spread), about half of the 285K Americans who've died since the end of June would still be alive, or ~143K people.

— Charles #GetCovered-ba (@charles_gaba) February 3, 2022

I honestly didn't expect this to get that much attention, as it seemed pretty obvious to me: Vaccinations work very well at reducing the COVID-19 death rate, so it's not terribly surprising that the most-vaccinated areas would have a much lower death rate than the rest of the country.

However, it kind of blew up/went viral, and several people have asked for documentation, so here you go: The table below lists all 147 counties, their exact total population according to the 2020 U.S. Census, their 2-dose COVID vaccination rates according to the Centers for Disease Control in most cases (in some states I had to rely on the state health department vaccination dashboard or other...see notes for exceptions), and their COVID-19 death tolls from 6/30/21 and yesterday according to Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science & Engineering.

There's also some notes regarding accuracy concerns in Arizona, Miami-Dade County in Florida and Hudspeth County, Texas, as well as a few other things. In addition, there's a handful of counties where the official vaccination rate is over 100%, which obviously isn't correct; this is likely due to errors in the vaccination or Census estimates, as well as people moving out of the county or other various reasons. Those counties (bold/italics) have been capped at 98% vacccinated.

As for the "143,000 would still be alive" claim: Obviously there's other factors at play; it might be somewhat smaller than that...or possibly higher still. On the other hand, I think it's also noteworthy that the average vaccination rate and death rate of 147 counties spanning 40 states, with populations ranging from as few as 82 (yes, that's right) to over 3.3 million people, for a combined population of over 53 million...are both almost identical to the state of Vermont itself.

This isn't meant as a peer-reviewed analysis, it's just a ballpark estimate. The point is that tens of thousands of people would certainly still be alive today if more people had gotten vaccinated by now.