With a third vaccine approved by the FDA for licking COVID-19, brought to market by Johnson & Johnson, the U.S. can expect an uptick in vaccinations among fellow health citizens.

That’s such welcome news and a positive outlook for a healthier 2021.

But there’s another angle on 2021 for which health care providers and health citizens alike should prepare: that is the excess deaths that will happen due to patients postponing needed health care, diagnostic tests, and preventive services that stem from people avoiding care in doctor’s offices and hospitals.

The chart here comes from IQVIA’s latest study into COVID-19’s impact on U.S. health care, finding that nearly 1 billion (with a “b”) patient diagnosis visits were lost in 2020.

I have the honor of interviewing Dr. Michael Osterholm at this year’s South-by-Southwest Festival. Dr. O is a leading epidemiologist who represents CIDRAP, the Center for Infectious Disease and Prevention. You’ve probably seen him on broadcast news shows, soberly updating Americans on the state of the coronavirus in the U.S. using his unique brand of data and Midwestern communications vibe.

Dr. O recently called 2020 “The Year of COVID.”

I riff on his observation for last year, coining this year our “Year of Vaccines. And Excess Deaths” in my latest post for Medecision’s Liberation blog.

You can read my take on the upside of vaccinations and the sobering downside of mortality in the U.S., which has already taken off on average one year of life for Americans based on actuaries’ calculations.

The bottom line for all of us and the people we love: get medical care, get preventive care, and please….get vaccinated.