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COVID-19 was 2nd-leading cause of US deaths in September, analysis finds

The study also found that nearly 50,000 deaths in September alone happened among unvaccinated people.

More than 90,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 between June and September occurred among unvaccinated American adults. Those are the findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit focused on health issues.

More than half of those deaths occurred just in September during the wave of the delta variant, the foundation wrote in a summary Wednesday.

Despite vaccines being widely available since the spring, about one-third of the eligible U.S. population is not fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 43% of the total population is not vaccinated, but that includes children under the age of 12 who have not yet received authorization for a vaccine.

To reach its conclusions, KFF looked at the total number of COVID-19 deaths from June to September, removing children under age 18. It then subtracted the number of deaths of vaccinated people who had breakthrough infections. Finally, based on known statistics about the efficacy of vaccines, it determined that 91% of COVID-19 deaths — approximately 90,000 — among unvaccinated people would have been prevented if they had gotten a vaccine.

"Most of these preventable deaths occurred in the last month, well after vaccines became available," KFF said. "In September 2021 alone, approximately 49,000 deaths likely would have been averted if they had chosen to get vaccinated against COVID-19."

Approximately 105,000 people in the U.S. died from COVID-19 between the months of June and September, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. But KFF said it used its own tracker for the purposes of this study.

KFF said average daily COVID deaths in September was 1,899, making it that month's second-leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease (2,078 per day). That was a big increase from July 2021, in which COVID had fallen to the seventh-leading cause of death.

It was also the No. 1 cause of death among people age 35-54 in September, KFF said, and No. 2 among ages 25-34 and 55-64. It was the No. 3 cause of death among those over age 65.

Nearly 720,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, Johns Hopkins said Wednesday. The number of deaths, which steadily climbed starting in late July and reached a weekly total of 14,204 late last month, fell to 11,169 in the week ending last Sunday.

The U.S. in 2021 has already exceeded the number of COVID-19 deaths reported for all of 2020.

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