Covid vaccines prevented nearly 20 million deaths in the first year after they were introduced, according to the first major pilot study on the topic released Friday.
The study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, is based on data from 185 countries and territories collected from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021.
It is the first attempt to estimate the number of direct and indirect deaths from Covid-19 vaccinations.
It found that 19.8 million deaths were prevented out of a potential 31.4 million deaths that would have occurred if vaccines were not available.
It was a 63 percent reduction, the study found.
The study used official numbers — or estimates when official data was not available — for deaths from Covid, as well as the total additional deaths from each country.
Excess mortality is the difference between the total number of people who have died from all causes and the number of deaths expected based on past data.
These analyzes were compared to a hypothetical alternative scenario in which no vaccine was administered.
The model took into account variations in vaccination coverage between countries, as well as differences in vaccine effectiveness based on the types of vaccines known to have been primarily used in each country.
China was not included in the study due to its large population and strict containment measures, which would have skewed the results, it said.
The study found that high- and middle-income countries were responsible for the highest number of avoided deaths, 12.2 million out of 19.8 million, reflecting inequalities in vaccine access worldwide.
Nearly 600,000 additional deaths could have been prevented if the World Health Organization (WHO) goal of vaccinating 40 percent of each country’s population by the end of 2021 had been met, it concluded.
“Millions of lives have probably been saved by making vaccines available to people around the world,” said lead study author Oliver Watson of Imperial College London.
“We could have done more,” he said.
Covid has officially killed more than 6.3 million people worldwide, according to the WHO.
But the organization said last month that the actual number could rise to 15 million, if all direct and indirect causes are taken into account.
The numbers are extremely sensitive because of the way they reflect on the handling of the crisis by authorities around the world.
The virus is on the rise again in some places, including Europe, where a warm-weather resurgence has been attributed in part to Omicron subvariants.