CLARKSBURG, WV (WBOY) — The United States just surpassed a million COVID deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. But was it necessary? A study reported by ABC News said that almost half of COVID deaths since vaccines became available could have been prevented.

Since vaccines against COVID-19 became available in January of 2021, COVID has taken 614,305 American lives, but a new study by the Brown School of Public Health estimated that 318,981 of these deaths could have been prevented with vaccinations.

In West Virginia at the time of the study (mid-January 2022), 5,483 West Virginians had died of COVID-19. Of these deaths, the study said that 3,350 of these deaths, more than 61%, could have been prevented if all West Virginians had been vaccinated.

The study reported that increased vaccination rates would have saved a higher percentage of lives in West Virginia than in any other state.

Despite having a higher at-risk elderly population, West Virginians were some of the most hesitant in the country to get vaccinated against COVID-19. More than two years into the pandemic, as of May 17, less than 55% of West Virginians have been fully vaccinated against COVID (received at least two shots).

Even if West Virginians would have been 85% vaccinated by the time of the study, it’s estimated that 2,166 West Virginia lives would have been saved.

As of May 17, 2022, 6,903 West Virginia COVID-related deaths have been confirmed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human resources.

Wyoming, Tennessee and Oklahoma would have also seen many lives saved had they had higher vaccination rates, according to the study.

To see the full results of the study, visit the Global Epidemic dashboard by the Brown School of Public Health.