The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal reported that the COVID-19 vaccine has prevented more than 42 lakh potential deaths in India by 2021, based on estimates of “excessive” deaths during the pandemic.
The study based on additional deaths from 185 countries and territories found that the first year of the vaccination program prevented 1.98 crores of a potential 3.14 crore COVID-19 deaths worldwide.
The study estimates that an additional 5.99 lakh lives could have been saved if the World Health Organization target of vaccinating 40 percent of the population in each country with two or more doses by the end of 2021 had been met.
“For India, we estimate that 42.10,000 (more than 42 lakh) deaths were prevented from vaccination during this period. This is our central estimate, with an uncertainty in this estimate between 36.65,000-43.70,000 (more than 36, 6 lakh to 43.7 lakh),’ lead study author Oliver Watson of Imperial College London, UK, told PTI.
He said India’s figures are based on estimates of between 48.2 lakh and 56.3 lakh deaths during the pandemic, a number that is 10 times the official figure of more than 5.24 lakh deaths recorded to date. have been reported.
According to The Economist’s estimates, 23 lakh people died from COVID-19 in India in early May 2021, against official figures of about 2 lakh by then. The WHO last month had estimated there were 47 lakh Covid-related deaths in India, a figure that has been refuted by the government.
“Saving more than 19 million (1.9 crore) lives through the unprecedented speed of development and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is an extraordinary global health achievement,” said Yale University professor Alison Galvani School of Public Health, USA. said.
“Nevertheless, millions of extra lives could be saved through a more equitable distribution of vaccines,” Galvani, who was not involved in the study, said in a statement.
Cumulative COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered in India have exceeded 196.44 crore, the Union Ministry of Health said. Despite the incredible speed of the vaccine’s global rollout, more than 35 lakh COVID-19 deaths have been reported, researchers said.
The researchers used an established model of COVID-19 transmission using country-level data for officially recorded COVID-19 deaths between December 8, 2020 and December 8, 2021. To account for the underreporting of deaths in countries with weaker surveillance systems, they conducted a separate analysis based on the number of additional deaths recorded above the number that would have been expected during the same period.
The global scenario
China was not included in the analysis due to its large population and very strict lockdown measures that would have skewed the findings, the researchers said. The team found that based on officially recorded COVID-19 deaths, an estimated 1.81 crore deaths would have occurred during the study period if vaccinations had not been implemented.
Of these, the model estimates that vaccination has prevented 1.44 crore deaths, representing a global reduction of 79 percent. These findings do not explain the underreporting of COVID-19 deaths, which is common in lower-income countries.
A further analysis based on the total number of additional deaths over the same period found that COVID-19 vaccination has prevented an estimated 1.98 crore deaths out of a total of 3.14 crore potential deaths that would have occurred without vaccination, a reduction of 63 percent. More than 79 percent of the avoided deaths were due to the vaccine’s immediate protection against severe symptoms, leading to lower death rates, the researchers said.
The remaining 43 lakh deaths avoided were estimated to have been prevented by indirect protection against reduced transmission of the virus in the population and reduced health care burden, they said. “Our study demonstrates the tremendous benefit vaccines had in reducing deaths from COVID-19 worldwide,” said Professor Azra Ghani, chair of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London.