COVID-19 vaccination is substantially more cost-effective than lockdowns, according to research conducted by CHDS faculty affiliate Joseph Pliskin and Ronen Arbel.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns were a common prevention strategy and continue to be pursued in some places, such as large parts of China. As vaccines became increasingly available, they replaced lockdowns as a primary prevention strategy in many areas.
Pliskin’s and Arbel’s work assessed the impacts of two lockdowns and two vaccination campaigns in Israel and estimated the costs associated with preventing one COVID-19 death. In the first lockdown, an estimated 1,022 deaths were averted at a total cost of $10.8 billion; in the second lockdown, an estimated 1,970 deaths were averted at a total cost of $5.64 billion. This means that the cost to avoid one COVID-19 death via the lockdowns was about $10.6 million and $2.86 million respectively. In contrast, in the primary vaccination campaign, an estimated 4,750 deaths were averted at a total cost of $0.29 billion; in the first booster campaign, 650 deaths were averted at a total cost of $0.015 billion. This means that the cost to avoid one COVID-19 death via vaccination was $60,845 and $22,744 respectively. Thus there is over an order-of-magnitude difference between the strategies. These findings indicate that the most effective and economically efficient strategy is to provide maximal vaccination protection, using mRNA vaccines and boosters.
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