Higher Vaccination Rates Lead To Fewer Deaths
A political divide is evident in COVID-19 data. Republican leaning states tend toward fewer vaccinations, more deaths.
Increasingly, the response to COVID-19 has followed ideological and partisan lines. Measures to curtail the pandemic, most notably masks, social distancing and vaccination, face considerable opposition from Republican politicians and many rank and file. Thus many conservatives are working against their own interests and supporting leaders who put them at risk of sickness and death.
Why is this?
The Daily Wire claims to “provide truthful, accurate and ethical reporting,” thus avoiding the most extravagant claims of the right-wing blogosphere, such as the claim that the vaccine includes a chip to track the recipient. Yet the stories published by The Daily Wire are likely to reinforce the proposition that masks and vaccinations are a threat to freedom. The cumulative effect may be no different than the less plausible claims by other members of the right-wing blogosphere.
Here are COVID-19-related headlines from two days of the Daily Wire in early August: “Rogan Blasts Vaccine Passports” and “People ‘Don’t Understand History,’ ‘One Step Closer To Dictatorship’” in which Joe Rogan claims that vaccine passports would push the U.S. “one step closer” to being a “dictatorship.”
- “‘Strap In. It’s A Doozy’: Mike Rowe Blasts Critic Who Bashed Him On Vaccines,” in which tv host Rowe responds to an article critiquing him for blaming the scientific establishment for vaccine hesitancy.
- “Rand Paul Implores Americans To ‘Choose Freedom’ Over Potential Lockdowns: ‘Time For Us To Resist’”
- “Dan Crenshaw ‘Thanks’ Birthday-Bash Obamas For Lockdown Message: ‘Do Not Comply’”, quoting a sarcastic tweet from the Texas Representative arguing that the original plans for Obama’s 60th birthday (since scaled way back) gave permission for ignoring orders aimed at controlling the pandemic.
Nowhere is there any sense that avoiding the vaccination brings real costs to both the individual and society.
As shown in the graph below, comparing the 2020 presidential vote to the average number of new COVID-19 cases daily for each of the 50 states. The horizontal axis shows Joe Biden’s portion of the two-candidate vote. The vertical axis shows the average daily rate of new cases per 100,000 people in the state.
Although the chart below shows considerable scatter, particularly among the Republican dominated states. The scatter is reflected in the quite small R2, typically interpreted as the percentage of variation explained by the trend line, in this case about 13%.
It is notable that the nine states with the highest per capita number of new cases were all won by Donald Trump. Strikingly, Republican office holders, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, seem to pay no price for their failure to protect their constituents from the pandemic.
The next graph compares the 2020 vote to the daily number of COVID-19 deaths per million people in each state. As with cases, the states with the highest death rates voted for Trump.
The relationship between the 2020 vote and the pandemic is somewhat stronger when the impact of the pandemic is measured in the number of deaths from COVID-19 than when using cases. The percentage of variability explained by the trend has grown from 13% to 21%. This result is somewhat surprising because the number of deaths introduce two levels of variability: the variability in the number of new cases plus the variability in the number of cases that result in death.
A simple explanation for this is that the higher vaccination rates in the Biden-supporting states gives them two advantages: a lower infection rate and less serious symptoms for those who do get infected but are fully vaccinated, the so-called “breakthrough” cases.
The obvious reason for the better performance of Democratic states is the percentage of the population that is vaccinated. The next chart compares the average daily number of cases per 100,000 people to the percentage of people who have received at least one shot.
Note that the percentage of variation explained by the model has risen to almost 35%. There is still considerable scatter, especially among Republican states. But overall, people are less likely to be infected by COVID-19 in states with high vaccination rates.
The next graph compares deaths to the percentage of the populace who have at least one shot. Around 40% of the variation is explained by the trend.
Overall, states in the North East and New England performed quite well. In fact, no one died in Vermont in the most recent week.
North Dakota, despite its low vaccination rate and a governor opposed to any measures to control the virus, performs quite well. (Last fall, the Dakotas had the highest per capita daily cases rate, followed for a time by Wisconsin.) In an effort to arrive at an explanation, I postulated that perhaps there was a “Great Plains” phenomenon. Perhaps states with low population densities had an advantage—that it was easier for residents to avoid transmitting the virus.
The next graph tests the hypothesis that there is some low-population advantage. As the chart below shows, the data do not support this theory.
The next graph ranks the states in decreasing order of death rates from COVID-19, based on the first week of July. States supporting Trump are shown in red; those voting for Biden are in blue. Although there are exceptions, red states as a group lead the way with the highest death rates. Assuming this pattern continues into the future, residents of red states will pay a high price.
Clearly, Republican states and their residents pay a price for their prevailing view of vaccinations against COVID-19. But rather than pay a political price, their politicians seem to benefit. For example, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis is widely viewed as a potential presidential candidate.
Overall, Wisconsin, despite its middling vaccination rate, is doing surprisingly well when it comes to COVID-19 cases and deaths. This is illustrated by its 45th ranking in its number of deaths per million Wisconsinites, as shown in the graph below. But there is a real danger of complacency. Along with most other states, the number of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin has risen over the past two weeks.
- MHD Release: Milwaukee Health Department Launches COVID-19 Wastewater Testing Dashboard - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Jan 23rd, 2024
- Milwaukee County Announces New Policies Related to COVID-19 Pandemic - County Executive David Crowley - May 9th, 2023
- DHS Details End of Emergency COVID-19 Response - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Apr 26th, 2023
- Milwaukee Health Department Announces Upcoming Changes to COVID-19 Services - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Mar 17th, 2023
- Fitzgerald Applauds Passage of COVID-19 Origin Act - U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald - Mar 10th, 2023
- DHS Expands Free COVID-19 Testing Program - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Feb 10th, 2023
- MKE County: COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rising - Graham Kilmer - Jan 16th, 2023
- Not Enough Getting Bivalent Booster Shots, State Health Officials Warn - Gaby Vinick - Dec 26th, 2022
- Nearly All Wisconsinites Age 6 Months and Older Now Eligible for Updated COVID-19 Vaccine - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Dec 15th, 2022
- City of Milwaukee Bi-Weekly COVID-19 Update - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Dec 9th, 2022
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