A group out of Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) developed meta and consensus forecasts to predict the impact that COVID-19 vaccination would have on the number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
A series of questions were posed to create predictions for the impact of COVID-19 on the population in the United States. The predictions included the number of new confirmed cases, the number of hospitalizations from the virus, and the number of deaths from COVID-19. Additionally, these numbers were compared with scenarios where 50% or more of the United States population received the COVID-19 vaccine.
To develop the consensus forecast, predictions from expert forecasters and authorities on the subject matter were combined. They’re able to confidently forecast future values as they have structured and unstructured data, the latter of which isn’t normally possible for use by a model. Comparatively, a metaforecast is an amalgamation of predictions by computer models as well as the consensus developed by people.
It was predicted that if less than 50% of the population in the United States were to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by March 1st, 2021, there would be 645,000 cumulative deaths in the US due to COVID-19 by December 31st, 2021. Comparatively, if 50% or more were to be vaccinated in the same scenario, the number of COVID-19 deaths would be 520,000. Although the death toll is still alarming, there would be 125,000 fewer COVID-19 deaths if more than half the population were to receive the vaccine.
The information generated by these predictions is extremely useful for a number of reasons. First, it allows healthcare and other frontline workers to prepare for the number of hospitalizations and those requiring care. This would allow them to ensure that they have adequate personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves, or face shields.
Second, as community spread from the virus continues, it’s important to keep the public informed and provide guidance for preventing a spike in COVID-19 cases. By releasing the number of expected cases, deaths, and hospitalizations, people may follow public health guidelines more closely. Wearing masks, avoiding social gatherings, and only travelling for essential reasons like work or groceries are all actions that can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Finally, providing predictions on the number of deaths that could be avoided if 50% or more of the population receive COVID-19 vaccinations, individuals may be more likely to get vaccinated. These predictions really call attention to the importance of increasing rates of vaccinating throughout the United States. Although there continue to be many challenges with producing and distributing the COVID-19 vaccines, predictions like those presented by McAndrew and group highlight the significance of getting vaccinated and the implications it may have on the number of COVID-19 deaths.
News Release: Forecast :125,000 fewer U.S. COVID deaths if 50% initiate vaccination by March 1. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/lu-ff012921.php
McAndrew T, Cambeiro J, Braun D, Besiroglu T, Luk D, Codi A. Meta and consensus forecast of COVID-19 targets. Epub ahead of print.