When nurse Sandra Lindsay received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States outside of a clinical trial on this day two years ago, “the small dose of mRNA represented a giant leap in efforts to beat back the virus,” The New York Times wrote.
Two years later, those small “doses of hope amid a pandemic” have translated into 3.2 million saved lives and 18.5 million prevented hospitalizations, according to recently released research to estimate the number of “COVID-19 attributable deaths, hospitalizations, and infections” prevented by the U.S. vaccination program.
The study by the Commonwealth Fund says that, without the COVID-19 vaccines, “the U.S. would have experienced 1.5 times more infections, 3.8 times more hospitalizations, and 4.1 times more deaths.” And that doesn’t measure benefits like the extent of viral mutations likely prevented by controlling the virus.
The COVID-19 vaccination program prevented at least 120 million infections while saving $1.15 trillion in medical costs, according to the study.
“The swift development of the vaccine, emergency authorization to distribute widely, and rapid rollout has been instrumental in curbing hospitalization and death while mitigating socioeconomic repercussions of the pandemic,” the authors of the study wrote.
Noting that they’ve modeled “only viral dynamics within the U.S.,” they pointed out that their study “underestimates the true impact of COVID-19 vaccine development on U.S. outcomes” because it did not account for the effect of the vaccines developed by the U.S on the disease’s trajectory elsewhere.
As the New York Times noted, nearly 634 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the U.S., with more than 80% of the population receiving at least one dose.
mRNA technology behind successful new vaccines
One of the positive impacts of COVID-19 vaccine development has been to accelerate the development of mRNA technology.
Vaccine developer Moderna announced yesterday a potential melanoma vaccine that uses mRNA technology reduced the risk of cancer recurrence or death by 44% when used in combination with Merck’s Keytruda.
As we previously reported, Moderna “is running two HIV vaccine clinical trials leveraging the mRNA technology” that offers “a fresh approach to this challenge.”
This summer, the company also launched “a Phase 3 clinical trial of seasonal influenza vaccines using the revolutionary mRNA technology” and “with the start of dosing for its mRNA-1010 program” it now has “four programs in late stage Phase 3 studies, including its SARS-CoV-2 booster, RSV, seasonal flu and CMV vaccine candidates.”