COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to have prevented nearly 1.98 crore deaths worldwide — out of a potential 3.14 crore deaths — in the first year of the vaccine programme, a new modelling study has found. These include 42.10 lakh deaths prevented in India. The study has been published in The Lancet Infectious Disease.
Vaccination in India
“The study estimates how many deaths could have been saved between December 8, 2020 and December 8, 2021— which reflects the first year in which vaccines were distributed — and for India, we have estimated that 42.10 lakh deaths were prevented by vaccination,” Dr Oliver Watson, lead author of the study, from Imperial College London, told The Indian Express. “This shows the remarkable impact that vaccination has had, especially in India, which was the first country to experience the impact of the Delta variant,” he said, by email.
“These estimates are based on the estimates of excess mortality in India during the Covid-19 pandemic, which they have sourced from the Economist and are similar to the estimates that the WHO (World Haelth Organization) have reported. Independently, our group has also investigated the Covid-19 death toll based on reports of excess mortality and seroprevalence surveys and arrive at similar estimates of almost 10 times the official count,” he said.
India began vaccination in January 2021. According to the Health Ministry, till date, the cumulative vaccination coverage exceeds 196.62 crore. India’s has been one of the world’s fastest vaccination drives. More than 65% of the population are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.
The study is based on data from 185 countries and territories. It found high and upper-middle income countries
accounted for the greatest number of prevented deaths (1.22 crore/1.98 crore), highlighting inequalities around the world. A further 5.99 lakh deaths could have been averted if the WHO’s target of vaccinating 40% of the population in every country by the end of 2021 had been met, the report said. Despite the speed of vaccine rollout worldwide, more than 35 lakh Covid-19 deaths have been reported since the first vaccine was given in December 2020.
The researchers used a model based on country-level data for officially recorded Covid-19 deaths occurring between December 8, 2020 and December 8, 2021. To account for under-reporting of deaths in countries with weaker surveillance systems, they carried out a separate analysis based on the number of excess deaths recorded above those that would have been expected during the same time period. Where official data was not available, the team used estimates of all-cause excess mortality. These analyses were compared with an alternative hypothetical scenario in which no vaccines were delivered. China was not included.
Based on officially recorded Covid-19 deaths, an estimated 1.81 crore deaths would have occurred if vaccinations had not been implemented. Vaccination prevented 1.44 crore deaths. These findings do not account for under-reporting of deaths. The team did a further analysis based on total excess deaths to account for this.
More than three quarters (1.55 crore/ 1.98 crore) of deaths averted were due to the direct protection provided by vaccination; and 43 lakh were estimated to have been prevented by reduced transmission.