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People line up for COVID-19 vaccinations, an important step in preventing deaths caused by the disease. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • COVID-19 has now killed more than 800,000 people in the United States.
  • It’s now the number one cause of death for people ages 45 to 54.
  • Researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation say that 163,000 lives could’ve been saved with COVID-19 vaccinations in the past 6 months.
  • Experts say that this data should serve as a “wake-up call” to people who aren’t vaccinated.

Vaccines help save lives.

It’s why pediatricians recommend that children get immunized against everything from measles to whooping cough.

In the case of COVID-19, which has killed more than 800,000 people in the United States, vaccinations could’ve lowered that number by saving 163,000 lives, a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found.

The researchers looked at data from June 2021 forward, a time which they say “adults in the U.S. generally could have been fully vaccinated and protected from most cases of severe illness or death due to COVID-19.”

The researchers assumed that COVID-19 vaccination would’ve prevented at least 91 percent of deaths among people who were unvaccinated.

From that, the researchers extrapolated an estimate of 163,000 preventable deaths among the largely unvaccinated population.

That includes approximately 51,000 lives that could’ve been saved in September and another 29,000 deaths that could’ve been prevented with vaccines in November.

“They used the more conservative vaccine efficacy rate. Had they used 94 percent, this estimate of preventable mortality would have been higher — around 168,000 people,” noted Dr. Supriya Narasimhan, the chief of infectious diseases at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in California.

Bottom line?

“The overwhelming majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths continue to be preventable,” the researchers wrote.

“This analysis is very accurate, and it’s pretty amazing how they have pulled it together,” said Dr. Robert G. Lahita, the director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph’s Healthcare System and author of the upcoming book “Immunity Strong.”

“These data show that only 4 percent of vaccinated people have died since the beginning of 2021. People are always asking for this stat.”

Lahita told Healthline that the research didn’t account for effects from the recently surging — and more vaccine-evasive — Omicron variant, which might change this analysis somewhat.

However, the researchers noted that preliminary studies showed that booster doses appear to be significantly protective against the new variant and that full vaccination still has high levels of protection against serious disease and death.

“To me, the striking part of this data is that COVID-19 was the number one cause of death among people aged 45 to 54 (even more than heart disease, cancer, and suicide),” Narasimhan told Healthline.

“It is among the top seven leading causes across all age groups, excluding infants. COVID is also among the top two leading causes of death among adults aged 25 to 65 (it is number two for ages 25 to 44 and 55 to 64). These are the most productive years of a person’s life in terms of contributing to the workforce and raising a family.

“I would view this data as a ‘wake-up’ call to the vaccine-hesitant, especially as we gear up to face Omicron, which shows some immune escape. Vaccination may not prevent all illness but will prevent mortality and severe illness with such variants. And boosters undoubtedly bolster the protection,” she said.

“Most people are protected by vaccination,” Lahita added. “I wish I could make this into a headline: American lives are needlessly being lost because we have politicized public health.”