Evaluating the Impact of SARS-CoV-2 Variants on the COVID-19 Epidemic and Social Restoration in the United States: A Mathematical Modelling Study

Rui Li, Yan Li, Zhuoru Zou, Yiming Liu, Xinghui Li, Guihua Zhuang, Mingwang Shen, Lei Zhang

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Background: Multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants are still rampant across the United States (US). We aimed to evaluate the impact of vaccination scale-up and potential reduction in the vaccination effectiveness on the COVID-19 epidemic and social restoration in the US. Methods: We extended a published compartmental model and calibrated the model to the latest US COVID-19 data. We estimated the vaccine effectiveness against the variant and evaluated the impact of a potential reduction in vaccine effectiveness on the epidemics. We explored the epidemic trends under different levels of social restoration. Results: We estimated the overall existing vaccine effectiveness against the variant as 88.5% (95% CI: 87.4–89.5%) with the vaccination coverage of 70% by the end of August, 2021. With this vaccine effectiveness and coverage, there would be 498,972 (109,998–885,947) cumulative infections and 15,443 (3,828–27,057) deaths nationwide over the next 12 months, of which 95.0% infections and 93.3% deaths were caused by the variant. Complete social restoration at 60, 65, 70% vaccination coverage would increase cumulative infections to 1.6 (0.2–2.9) million 0.7 (0.1–1.2) million, and 511,159 (110,578–911,740), respectively. At same time it would increase cumulative deaths to 39,040 (5,509–72,570), 19,562 (3,873–35,250), 15,739 (3,841–27,638), respectively. However, if the vaccine effectiveness were reduced to 75%, 50% or 25% due to new SARS-CoV-2 variants, there would be 667,075 (130,682–1,203,468), 1.7 (0.2–3.2) million, 19.0 (5.3–32.7) million new infections and 19,249 (4,281–34,217), 42,265 (5,081–79,448), 426,860 (117,229–736,490) cumulative deaths to occur over the next 12 months. Further, social restoration at a lower vaccination coverage would lead to even greater secondary outbreaks. Conclusion: Current COVID-19 vaccines remain effective against the SARS-CoV-2 variant, and 70% vaccination coverage would be sufficient to restore social activities to a pre-pandemic level. Further reduction in vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 variants would result in a potential surge of the epidemic. Multiple measures, including public health interventions, vaccination scale-up and development of a new vaccine booster, should be integrated to counter the new challenges of new SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number801763
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
StatePublished - 10 Jan 2022


  • COVID-19 vaccination
  • COVID-19 variants
  • mathematical modelling
  • social restoration
  • vaccine effectiveness


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