I'm a strong believer in science. Everyone should be. Not just because science is our best means of knowing reality, and that's a very good thing. Also because ignoring science can be dangerous to your health.
Very dangerous, according to Peter Hotez, MD, Ph.D, who wrote a book that I'm about half through reading: The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: A Scientist's Warning. Hotez is the founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, where he co-directs the Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development.
His book, which I'm enjoying a lot despite the bleak theme, describes in persuasive detail how resistance to COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, mostly by conservatives, caused a massive amount of unnecessary deaths among people in red states.
(Note to readers in other countries: for an originally arbitrary reason, red came to be associated with conservative/Republican areas in the United States and blue with liberal/Democratic areas. Thankfully, I live in a blue state, Oregon.)
As you can read below in excerpts from Hotez' book that I've shared, there's solid evidence to support the conclusion that the United States suffered about 200,000 unnecessary COVID deaths due to vaccine resistance, chiefly in states that voted for Donald Trump in 2020.
That's an astounding number. The 9/11 attack in my country killed about 3,000 people. That led to a major war against terror, as our politicians termed it. The recent attack by Hamas has killed about 1,400 Israelis so far. That caused Israel to declare war against Hamas.
Yet 200,000 unnecessary COVID deaths in the United States hasn't caused a massive war against anti-science, though it should. All we have to date are skirmishes by science-admiring people like Hotez and other devotees of facts rather than falsehoods.
Here's how Hotez describes the relation between conservative states and increased deaths from COVID-19.
In stark terms, the idea of "red COVID" points out that as the United States entered the last half of 2021, each blue, liberal state with a Democratic majority that had voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election had achieved far higher vaccination rates than conservative, red states that had voted for Donald Trump.
Leonhardt states plainly: "The political divide over vaccinations is so large that almost every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state."
Given the high rate of protection that vaccines confer against hospitalization and deaths, especially versus the original lineage of the virus and its Alpha and Delta variants, those low vaccination rates correlated with high death rates.
Therefore, it was no surprise (although still upsetting) that COVID-19 deaths also demonstrated a similar pattern of partisan split. Importantly, the differences in vaccination rates represent much more than an abstract concept; they directly translate into a partisan division in terms of lives lost.
By the summer and fall of 2021, as the highly transmissible Delta variant became dominant, overwhelmingly those losing their lives from COVID-19 were living in conservative counties with a majority that voted for Trump in 2020.
Here's an informative figure from Axios that illustrates the point Hotez makes in his book: living in a red state was bad for your health in the time of COVID.
Here's how Hotez describes the basis for a conclusion that 200,000 deaths could have been prevented if vaccination rates were as high in red areas of the country as in blue areas.
The estimate of 200,000 deaths is calculated by counting the 245,000 cumulative COVID-19 deaths in the United States between May 1 and December 31,2021, according to the University of Washington - Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's "COVID-19 Projections," multiplied by a factor of 0.80.
The 0.80 number reflects the percentage of deaths constituted by unvaccinated Americans at the peak of the Delta wave in August 2021 (81%) and September 2021 (79%) according to a Peterson - KFF analysis of CDC information to account for 196,000 lives lost.
The CDC estimates a ratio of 16.3 to 1 of unvaccinated to fully vaccinated deaths during the period of Delta predominance (July to November 2021), equivalent to 230,000 deaths.
Another approximation reflects the percentage of deaths made up by the unvaccinated (85%) versus those partially or completely vaccinated for the state of Texas for the year 2021 according to the Department of Texas State Health Services, which works out to 208,000 lives lost.
The health analyst Charles Gaba estimates between 180,000 and 235,000 deaths. Peterson - KFF also provides an additional (and somewhat lower) estimate of 162,000. This lower estimate is based on the 91% effectiveness versus death caused by the Delta variant for the two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, therefore even if all of the unvaccinated had accepted their vaccines, there would still be some deaths.
Peterson - KFF also find that vaccines would have prevented 234,000 deaths if we include the first three months of 2022.