A coronavirus forecast released Thursday by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projects that 185 million Americans will be vaccinated against the coronavirus by September, but warns that reluctance to vaccinate could contribute to a possible winter surge.
The IHME model predicts that the number of daily deaths from Covid-19 will decline, leading to the deaths of 948,859 Americans from the coronavirus by September. This scenario explains the continued spread of the B.1.1.7 virus variant, the first detected in the UK, US, and increased vaccination efforts over the next 90 days.
The team recently changed its modeling methodology to account for the underreporting of Covid-19-related deaths, resulting in higher death estimates than previous predictions.
The IHME team says it expects more than 70% of Americans to receive at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of May, and 65% will be fully immunized from here mid-June. President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a plan to deliver at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to 70% of the country’s adult population by July 4.
“After these points, further increases will be limited by demand,” the team said.
There is potential for a winter push, the team said. Much of that depends on the number of Americans who get vaccinated and the effectiveness of the vaccines against variants of the virus.
The coronavirus outbreak in India, linked to the B.1.617 virus variant, has proven that under certain circumstances, the transmission of the virus can increase “rapidly and explosively”, notes the IHME.
In the worst-case scenario, in which those vaccinated return to pre-pandemic mobility levels, the model estimates 984,950 deaths from Covid-19 in the United States by September. If 95% of Americans have started wearing masks, the model projects 939,122 deaths by that time.
Probably undercounted deaths: An IHME analysis also found that it is likely that the actual death toll from Covid-19 is likely 6.9 million, more than double the 3.2 million officially reported deaths.
The institute said deaths were likely “significantly underreported in almost every country” due to a combination of factors, including the varied testing capacity to confirm Covid-19 cases and deaths and deaths in older people who were not registered at the start of the pandemic, especially among those in long-term care facilities in high-income countries.
Most of the underreporting is “unintentional,” Dr Christopher Murray, director of IHME, said during a press briefing on Thursday.
“Part of it is the lack of testing and part of it is the strained health care systems.”
The United States has reported more deaths than any other country, and the updated IHME analysis estimates the actual number of Covid-19-related deaths in the United States at more than 905,000, or about 58% of more than the reported tally of around 574,000. The new analysis estimates that the death toll from Covid-19 in the United States will reach 949,000 in September.