COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2021, according to data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The data illustrate the toll from the virus, with 415,000 COVID-19 deaths last year. Coronavirus was the leading cause of death behind heart disease, with 693,000 deaths, and cancer, at 605,000 deaths.
COVID-19 was also the third-leading cause of death in 2020, but the number of deaths from the virus actually increased in 2021, with 60,000 more deaths than 2020.
The continued toll from the virus comes even as vaccines have been widely available since last spring, but many Americans did not get vaccinated.
“Covid shouldn’t even be in the top 10 causes of death in the US if we consistently used all the tools available,” tweeted Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research. “Yet we’re still now losing the lives of 500 Americans each day.”
A separate recent analysis from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that one-quarter of COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, and 60 percent of those since vaccines became widely available, could have been prevented if people had been vaccinated.
COVID-19 was the underlying cause of death for 415,000 people last year, and when deaths where COVID-19 was a contributing factor are counted too, that number increases to 460,000.
The virus was the underlying cause of 13.3 percent of all U.S. deaths last year, up from 10.4 percent in 2020, according to the CDC data.
The overall U.S. death rate increased by 0.7 percent from 2020 to 2021.