Covid-19 vaccines may have helped reduce deaths from the pandemic to nearly a third of what they would otherwise have been around the world, including about 2.7 million to 5.3 million in India. according to a new forecast to be adopted. published in the journal Lancet on Friday.
The figures are the first estimates of how many lives may have been saved worldwide as a result of vaccines, and how many more could have been had the distribution been fairer.
The first vaccines to be delivered to the public anywhere in the world were in December 2020, and in the 12 months since, 19.8 million of the potential 31.4 million Covid-19 deaths were prevented in 185 countries and territories, the study said. .
While no specific number was available for India, part of the map suggested that India may have prevented between 2.7 and 5.3 million deaths by administering the nearly 1.3 billion doses of vaccines that were delivered up to the first week of March. delivered in December 2021.
An additional 599,300 lives could have been saved worldwide if the World Health Organization’s target of vaccinating 40% of the population in each country with two or more doses by the end of 2021 had been met, the study said.
“Our findings provide the most complete assessment to date of the remarkable global impact vaccination has had on the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the nearly 20 million deaths estimated to have been prevented in the first year after vaccines were introduced, nearly 7.5 million were prevented in countries covered by the COVID-19 Vaccine Access Initiative (COVAX). This initiative was created because it was clear early on that global vaccine equality would be the only way out of the pandemic. Our findings show that millions of lives have likely been saved by making vaccines available to people everywhere, regardless of wealth. However, more could have been done. If the WHO’s targets had been met, we estimate that approximately 1 in 5 of the estimated lives lost to COVID-19 in low-income countries could have been prevented,” said Oliver Watson, lead author of the study. from Imperial College London, in a statement.
Since the first dose of Covid vaccine was administered, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population has received at least one dose (66%). Despite the speed of the global rollout, more than 3.5 million Covid-19 deaths have been reported since December 2020, the researchers said.
Several studies have attempted to estimate the impact of vaccination on the course of the pandemic. These studies focus on specific regions, such as individual countries, states or cities. The latest study is the first to estimate the impact of Covid-19 vaccinations on a global scale and the first to assess the number of direct and indirect deaths avoided.
“The study basically reiterates what has already been established – that vaccines do indeed prevent serious illness and death associated with coronavirus disease. One of the reasons we saw fewer hospital admissions in the Omciron wave can be attributed to the high vaccination rate against Covid-19 in the country,” said Dr GC Khilnani, former head of the Department of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. †
As on Thursday, India has vaccinated nearly 90% of its eligible population with two doses since the national Covid-19 vaccination program began on January 16, 2021. The government has expanded access to a booster dose to all adults from April 10, 2022, but uptake has been low.
To estimate the impact of global vaccination programs, 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 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. 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.
The model took into account variation in vaccination coverage between countries, as well as differences in vaccine effectiveness in each country based on the vaccine types known to have been primarily used in those areas. In particular, China was not included in the analysis due to its large population and very strict lockdown measures, which would have skewed the findings, the researchers said.
The team found that more than three quarters (79%, 15.5 million/19.8 million) of the avoided deaths were due to the immediate protection against severe symptoms through vaccination, leading to lower death rates. The remaining 4.3 million averted deaths were estimated to have been prevented through indirect protection against reduced transmission of the virus among the population and a lower burden on health care, improving access to medical care for the most deprived.
The impact of the vaccine changed over time and in different parts of the world as the pandemic progressed, the study found. Overall, the number of estimated deaths prevented per person was greatest in high-income countries, reflecting the earlier and wider introduction of vaccination campaigns in these areas (66 deaths prevented per 10,000 people in high-income countries). income versus 2,711 deaths prevented per 10,000 people in low-income countries).
“While the intense focus on the pandemic has now shifted, it is important that we ensure that the most vulnerable people in all parts of the world are protected from the ongoing spread of Covid-19 and from the other major diseases that disproportionately affect the poorest. keep hitting. † Ensuring fair access to vaccines is crucial, but requires more than just donating vaccines. Improvements in vaccine distribution and infrastructure, as well as coordinated efforts to combat vaccine misinformation and improve vaccine demand, are needed,” said Azra Ghani, Chair in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London.