Vaccination, previous infections behind sharp dip in US Covid deaths: Report

The number of coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have dwindled significantly as most now have some immunity – either from vaccines or prior infection, experts have told The New York Times. The rate at which people are dying in the US is close to the lowest in the pandemic.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show 230 Covid-related deaths were reported on June 16. Three months ago – on February 16, when the US was battling an Omicron-led surge in infections – this number was above 2,200. The seven-day moving average of new Covid-related deaths is currently at 266, around one-tenth of what it was in January.

“In previous waves there were still substantial pockets of people who had not been vaccinated or exposed to the virus, and so were at the same risk of dying as people at the beginning of the pandemic,” Dr David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “Those pockets don’t exist anymore.”

Total Covid-related deaths in the US is over 10 lakh, of which more than three lakh were reported till January 2021. The number crossed eight lakh a year later – in January 2022.

Since February 2022, though, the US has seen a total 1.16 lakh deaths.

Dr Joe Gerald, an associate professor of public health at the University of Arizona, told The New York Times, that since Americans who weren’t vaccinated or infected got Covid during the Omicron surge from January to early March, the general level of immunity is much higher than it was earlier.

“Our level of community immunity heading into this wave was much higher than it’s ever been due to the combination of infection and vaccination,” he said.

Experts have also attributed this dip to ‘milder’ symptoms. “What we’re seeing is that the average case of Covid-19 is becoming much milder,” Dr Dowdy said.

Dr Megan Ranney – an emergency physician at Brown University – said ‘overall, the people who’ve been coming through with Covid are much, much less sick than they were even this winter.”

There are still, though, some warning signs as many Americans opt not to take booster vaccine doses, meaning the decoupling of cases and deaths may not last. Immunity against the virus could fall, particularly with the ever-present danger of a more evasive variant forming via mutations.

“As the time since people got vaccinated becomes longer and longer, the efficacy of the immune response will be lessened,” Dr Abraar Karan, an infectious disease physician at Stanford University, said, “We can be caught off guard later this year.”