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Preprint in English | Other preprints | ID: ppcovidwho-295429


Vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 are allowing the progressive release of physical distancing restrictions in many countries. However, the global spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant has likely suppressed the residual chances of SARS-CoV-2 elimination through herd immunity alone. Here we assess the impact of the vaccination program in Italy since its start on December 27, 2020 and evaluate possible prospects for reopening the society while at the same time keeping COVID-19 under control. To this aim, we propose a mathematical modeling framework where levels of social activity are adjusted to match the time-series of the net reproduction number as estimated from surveillance data. We compared the estimated level of social contacts, number of deaths, and transmission potential with those of a counterfactual scenario where the same epidemic trajectory is obtained in absence of vaccination. We then evaluate the prospective impact of different scenarios of vaccination coverage and different social activity levels on SARS-CoV-2 reproduction number. We estimate that by June 30, 2021, the COVID-19 vaccination program allowed the resumption of about half the social contacts that were recorded in pre-pandemic times;in absence of vaccination, only about one third could have been resumed to obtain the same number of cases, with the added cost of about 12,100 (95%CI: 6,600-21,000) extra deaths (+27%;95%CI: 15-47%) between December 27, 2020 and June 30, 2021. We show that the negative effect of the Delta variant diffusion in July was entirely offset by vaccination in the month of July and August 2021. Finally, we estimate that a complete return to the pre-pandemic life could be safely attained only if >90%, including children from 5 years on, will be vaccinated using mRNA vaccines developed in 2020. In any case, increasing the vaccination coverage will allow further margins for societal reopening even in absence of a pediatric vaccine. These results may support the definition of vaccination targets for countries that have already achieved a broad population coverage.