COVID-19 vaccines saved almost 20 million lives in the first year alone

COVID-19 vaccines saved almost 20 million lives in the first year alone

COVID-19 vaccines saved almost 20 million lives in the first year alone

Another 599,300 deaths could have been prevented if countries had managed to meet the WHO target of vaccinating 40% of the population in each country by the end of 2021. Photo credit: Prostock/

The first study to model the impact of COVID vaccines on the pandemic worldwide has found that 19.8 million out of a possible 31.4 million deaths were prevented in the first year after vaccines were first rolled out in December 2020.

It is understandable to be disappointed with the various COVID-19 vaccines, even or perhaps especially for people who are in no way anti-vaccination. The speed and success with which they have been developed and rolled out has been impressive, but hopes that the vaccines would stop the pandemic entirely have not been fulfilled.

However, a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases looks at the donut, not the hole. Without vaccines, the number of deaths from COVID-19 would have more than doubled, the authors conclude. These were among the most life-saving developments of all time, a stunning achievement given the extraordinary time pressure everyone was under.

Estimates of how many people have died from COVID-19 are worryingly vague. Tracking reported deaths provides figures of just over 6 million. However, in countries where testing has not been widely available, this is a huge underestimate. Looking at the number of deaths compared to normal years puts the figure at 15 million in 2020 and 2021.

Inevitably, if it’s hard to say exactly how many died, it’s even harder to know how many might have in an alternate reality. dr However, Imperial College London’s Oliver Watson has sought to limit the task to 365 days after 8 December 2020, the day the first person received the first vaccine.

“Our findings provide the most complete assessment to date of vaccination’s remarkable global impact on the COVID-19 pandemic,” Watson said in a statement.

Watson and co-authors estimate that 12.2 million deaths were prevented in high- and upper-middle-income countries during this period, representing the countries that have been able to pay for the vaccines they need themselves, even if the acquisition is difficult turned out to be painfully slow. Despite reports that the COVID-19 Vaccine Access Initiative (COVAX) program was a failure as wealthy nations hogged supplies, another 7.5 million lives were saved in beneficiary countries.

Taking into account country-level mortality rates before vaccine availability and different vaccination rates afterwards, the authors estimate that 15.5 million of the lives saved were caused by direct protection from the vaccine. Another 4.3 million were due to interrupted transmission, reducing the chance of infection in the unvaccinated or relieving pressure on healthcare systems.

Most of the initial lives saved were in India, although vaccination rates there initially lagged behind those in the West. Later in 2021, the main beneficiaries were developed countries with older populations, which eased movement restrictions and mask requirements.

Despite the numerous delays in introducing immunization in low-income countries, two-thirds of the world’s population have received at least one dose of vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) target of 70 percent by mid-2022 is almost within reach.

However, the world could have done even better. Another 600,000 lives would have been saved if, for example, the WHO target of vaccinating 40 percent of even the most underserved countries had been met. The authors note that misinformation-driven vaccine reluctance has cost lives around the world. They don’t attempt to quantify that number, but an accompanying commentary notes that nearly 100,000 lives could have been saved in Nigeria had WHO targets been met, with widespread anti-vax myths being a factor in the failure .

Imperial College’s COVID-19 modeling became a popular target for those opposed to government intervention early in the pandemic, when they predicted large numbers of deaths if the virus were allowed to spread unchecked. While her work continues to draw criticism from other epidemiologists, the much-ridiculed estimate of 2 million COVID-19 deaths in America without action seems tragically credible after the death toll surpassed one million.

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