Are Vaccines Working?

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read
Are Vaccines Working?

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the New York Times has been collecting and sharing case and death data from around the U.S. and in my opinion, it's been the best way to visualize the virus that whole time. They have vaccination data in there now, and now that we're 18 months into having vaccines to protect from Covid, I wanted to see what the correlation was between vaccination rate and death rates across the U.S.

Two things of note, I'm not tracking cases since the vaccines are not necessarily going to keep you from getting Covid, but they should help you fight it off better than you would have otherwise. And there's the whole situation of natural immunity you get from having Covid and recovering. I'm not comparing the efficacy of these two things, I just wanted to see if deaths were lower in the states were more people were vaccinated.

Data via The New York Times

A few interesting things to my untrained eye:

  1. There is a definite trend towards more deaths in the states with lower vaccination rates.
  2. American Samoa takes the crown for most vaccinated citizens and the least deaths per capita.
  3. Mississippi highest death rate and the second lowest vaccination rate (Wyoming has the lowest vaccination rate).
  4. 25 states with vaccination rates higher than the national average. 17 of these have lower death rates than the national average.
  5. 25 states with vaccination rates lower than the national average. 18 of these have higher death rates than the national average.
  6. New Jersey is a major outlier with the 7th highest death rate, but the 11th highest vaccination rate (lots of vaccines, lots of deaths). However, most of those deaths came early in the pandemic before there were vaccines.
  7. The U.S. Virgin Islands are the opposite outlier, with the 4th lowest death rate, and the 4th lowest vaccination rate (few vaccines, few deaths).

Now of course, the other bit of data worth considering is that in areas where people are more likely to get the vaccine, they are likely also more likely to do other things in their lives that prevent them from getting and spreading Covid-19. Masking and distancing are probably more likely in these states with higher vaccine rates, although I have not been able to find any good data on this.

Where this leaves me feeling today is that yes, vaccines have helped save many, many lives. The trend is pretty clear, even if other behaviors have enhanced the inverse correlation between vaccination rates and deaths. This chart from the same page drive this home as well.

Chart via the New York Times