New research: Covid vaccines prevented 42 lakh deaths in India in first year

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 program, a new pilot study finds. These include 42.10 lakh deaths occurring in India. The study is 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 – reflecting the first year vaccines were distributed – and for India, we estimated that 42.10 lakh deaths were prevented by vaccination,” Dr. . Oliver Watson, lead author of the study, of 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 obtained from The Economist and are comparable to the estimates reported by the WHO (World Haelth Organization). Independently, our group also examined the Covid-19 death toll based on excess mortality reports and seroprevalence studies, arriving at comparable estimates nearly 10 times the official count,” he said.

India started vaccination in January 2021. According to the Ministry of Health, the cumulative vaccination rate so far exceeds 196.62 crore. India has been one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns. According to Our World in Data, more than 65% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Global Inequalities

The study is based on data from 185 countries and territories. It found high- and upper-middle-income countries
responsible for the highest number of prevented deaths (1.22 crore/1.98 crore), highlighting inequality around the world. Another 5.99 lakh deaths could have been prevented if the WHO’s target of vaccinating 40% of the population in each country by the end of 2021 had been met, the report said. Despite the speed with which vaccines are being rolled out worldwide, more than 35 lakh Covid-19 deaths have been reported since the first vaccine was launched in December 2020.

Methodology

The researchers used a model based on country-level data for officially recorded Covid-19 deaths between December 8, 2020 and December 8, 2021. To account for underreporting of deaths in countries with weaker surveillance systems, they conducted a separate study. analysis based on the number of additional deaths recorded above the number that would have been expected in the same period. Where official data was not available, the team used estimates of excess mortality from all causes. These analyzes were compared to 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 underreporting of deaths. The team did further analysis based on the total number of additional deaths to explain this.

More than three quarters (1.55 crore/1.98 crore) of the avoided deaths were due to the direct protection afforded by vaccination; and 43 lakh were estimated to have been prevented by reduced transmission.

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