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Excess Republican deaths after COVID vaccines became available


A new peer-reviewed research paper was published that examined “excess deaths,” that is the number of deaths above what is predicted under normal conditions, between Democratic and Republican voters during the pandemic. What they found was that there were more Republican excess deaths than Democratic after COVID vaccines became widely available.

This type of data supports a lot of research that there were more excess deaths in groups that had lower COVID-19 vaccination rates — and it appears that Democratic voters had a higher acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines than Republican voters.

As I usually do, I will present and then critique this article. It’s more than just about politics, it really shows that those groups that did not receive COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic were more at risk of dying. That debunks one of the great myths of the anti-vaccine activists.

Republican voters and COVID-19 vaccines paper

In a paper published on 24 July 2023 in JAMA Internal Medicine, Jacob Wallace, Ph.D., Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham, Ph.D., and Jason L. Schwartz, Ph.D., all of Yale University, developed a cohort study that evaluated 538,159 deaths in individuals aged 25 years and older in Florida and Ohio between March 2020 and December 2021.

Here are some of their key results:

  • Over the time period of the study, the excess death rate for Republican voters was 15% higher than the excess death rate for Democratic voters.
  • After 1 May 2021, when the first vaccines were available to all adults, the excess death rate for Republican voters was 43% higher than the excess death rate among Democratic voters.
  • The gap between Republican and Democratic voters’ excess death rate was larger in counties with lower vaccination rates.
  • Ohio voters had higher excess death rates than Florida voters, but this may be attributable to confounders between the two states.

The authors concluded:

…an association was observed between political party affiliation and excess deaths in Ohio and Florida after COVID-19 vaccines were available to all adults. These findings suggest that differences in vaccination attitudes and reported uptake between Republican and Democratic voters may have been factors in the severity and trajectory of the pandemic in the US.

Summary

This paper leads to two separate conclusions:

  1. It shows that groups who were opposed to vaccines and had lower vaccination rates had higher excess deaths than those who accepted the vaccines.
  2. The Republican antipathy towards COVID vaccines led to those voters having higher excess deaths than Democratic voters.

Although the study adjusted for age, sex, and other factors, there may be some other difference between Republican and Democratic voters that causes excess deaths in one group or another. However, based on the size and construction of this study, there appears to be good evidence that at the point where COVID-19 vaccines became available during the pandemic, the excess death rate diverged between Republican and Democratic voters.

Furthermore, other studies have provided evidence that Republican-leaning counties have had a higher COVID-19 death rate than Democratic-leaning counties because of vaccine acceptance, social distancing, and other public health mitigation strategies that differed between the two groups of voters.

Because of the size of the study and other supporting evidence of the differential excess death rates between the two groups of voters, I am giving this study a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is some of the best research on the effect of COVID-19 vaccines on the excess death rate.

Citations

Michael Simpson

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