Covid was the third leading cause of death in the US last year

Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year, with only heart disease and cancer killing more people, according to data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Covid killed more than 415,000 people in 2021 and contributed to the deaths of 45,000 others, about 20% more than in the first year of the pandemic, when the virus contributed to the deaths of more than 384,000 people.

CDC data, based on death certificates for US citizens from January through December 2021, is preliminary and subject to change as more information is reported.

People aged 85 and over had a higher death rate from Covid than any other age group, and more men died from the virus than women. The mortality rate was highest among American Indians when adjusted for age and population. Hispanics, blacks and Pacific Islanders also had higher death rates from Covid than whites. Asians and mixed race individuals had the lowest mortality rates.

Only heart disease and cancer killed more people than Covid in 2021, claiming about 693,000 and 604,000 lives respectively. Accidental injuries were the fourth leading cause of death, killing more than 219,000 people.

Although the US began rolling out the vaccines in early 2021, many people have not and have not gotten their shots. The Delta variant also swept across the nation in 2021, causing more severe illness than other Covid variants, according to the CDC.

As of Thursday, 34% of the US population was not fully vaccinated and about 23% of the population had not yet received a single dose. The only age group not yet vaccinable are children under 5 years of age.

Unvaccinated people aged 12 and older were 20 times more likely to die from Covid and three times more likely to test positive for the virus than people who had received three doses of the vaccine, according to data presented Wednesday at a CDC advisory committee meeting.

More than 987,000 people have died from Covid in the United States since the pandemic began, according to CDC data. Although the number of deaths from Covid has fallen by 85% since the peak of the Omicron wave in winter, the data still shows an average of 375 people dying from the virus every day.

In the optimistic scenario, about 96,000 people could die from Covid between March of this year and March 2023, according to the Covid-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a group of scientists at several leading universities and medical institutions including Penn State, Johns Hopkins and the National Institutes of Health.

In the most pessimistic scenario, 211,000 people could die from the virus over the next year if current population immunity rapidly ebbs and a Covid variant emerges that can escape immune protection from the vaccines and previous infections, the scientists said. The methods used by the Covid-19 Scenario Modeling Hub to create projections were developed in consultation with the CDC. Covid was the third leading cause of death in the US last year

Gary B. Graves

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