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National study suggests 650 lost Wyoming lives could have been saved by COVID-19 vaccines

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Nearly one out of every four lives lost to COVID-19 could have been prevented by vaccination. That's according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

KFF researchers found that about 234,000 people nationwide might still be alive today if only they had gotten the vaccine.

The researchers looked at vaccine effectiveness rates as well as unvaccinated deaths and breakthrough deaths between June of last summer and now. That's how long vaccines have been widely available for all adults.

Report author Krutika Amin said about 60 percent of COVID deaths from the last year could have been prevented by vaccinations.

"You could conservatively assume that the national rate applies to your state and say a similar proportion could have been prevented with vaccines," Amin said.

In Wyoming, that would mean that more than 650 deaths could have been avoided.

The researchers couldn't get state-specific data for each state, but states like Wyoming, with a low vaccination rate, tend to have higher proportions of unvaccinated deaths, Amin said.

"At this point, there's a lot of evidence that shows that vaccines work and that they're safe and effective," she said. "So in some ways, it's not so surprising that a disproportionate amount of the COVID deaths have been among unvaccinated people."

Misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories have contributed to vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy has been higher in heavily Republican states like Wyoming. The polarization surrounding vaccination has contributed to higher death rates in red states than in blue states and even higher death rates in red counties than in blue counties.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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