According to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, COVID-19 vaccines prevented over 42 lakh potential deaths in India in 2021.
The study’s conclusions were based on estimates of the “excess” number of deaths that occurred in the nation during the pandemic.
The study estimates a further 5,99,300 lives could have been saved if the WHO’s target of vaccinating 40% of the population in each country with two or more doses by the end of 2021.
Globally, the mathematical modelling study found that COVID-19 vaccines reduced the potential death toll during the pandemic by nearly 20 million (1 million = 10 lakhs) or more than half in the year following their implementation.
According to estimations based on excess deaths from 185 nations and territories, 19.8 million out of a potential 31.4 million COVID-19 deaths were avoided globally in the first year of the vaccination programme, the researchers said.
Between December 8, 2020, and December 8, 2021, the first year the vaccines were distributed, the study calculated the number of deaths that were avoided.
“For India, we estimate that 42,10,000 deaths were prevented by vaccination in this period. This is our central estimate, with the uncertainty in this estimate ranging between 36,65,000-43,70,000,” lead author of the study, Oliver Watson from the Imperial College London, the UK, told PTI news agency.
“The modelling analysis demonstrates that the Indian immunisation effort probably saved millions of lives. This demonstrates the vaccine’s impressive effects, particularly in India, the first country to witness the effects of the Delta variant,” in an email, Watson stated.
The India numbers are based on the estimates that 51,60,000 (48,24,000-56,29,000) deaths may have occurred in the country during the pandemic, a number which is 10 times the official figure of 5,24,941 deaths reported so far, he said.
These estimates are primarily based totally on the estimates of extra mortality in India during the COVID-19 pandemic, which we have sourced from The Economist and are similar to the estimates that the WHO have reported.
According to allegations of excess mortality and seroprevalence studies, our organisation independently looked into the COVID-19 death toll and came to similar estimations of nearly ten times the official count, Watson said.
According to the estimates by The Economist, 2.3 million people died in India from COVID-19 by the start of May 2021, as against official figures of around 2,00,000.
The government of India has refuted the WHO’s assessment from last month that 4.7 million deaths in India were due to COVID-19.
Nearly 7.5 million of the nearly 20 million deaths that were reported prevented in the first year following the introduction of vaccines occurred in nations covered by the COVID-19 Vaccine Access programme (COVAX), according to the study.
According to them, COVAX was founded because it was obvious from the start that the only way to stop the pandemic would be through global vaccine equity.
With an initial goal of providing both vaccine doses to 20% of the population in countries covered by the pledge by the end of 2021, the programme has made it easier for lower income countries to get affordable vaccines in an effort to eliminate inequities, according to the researchers.
Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population (66%) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination since the first dose was given outside of a clinical trial setting on December 8, 2020, they observed.
Despite the incredible speed of the vaccine roll-out worldwide, more than 3.5 million COVID-19 deaths have been reported since the first vaccine was administered in December 2020, they said.
More than 3.5 million COVID-19 deaths have been documented since the first vaccine was administered in December 2020, they claimed, despite the vaccine’s rapid global rollout.
The researchers examined country-level data for officially reported COVID-19 deaths that occurred between December 8, 2020, and December 8, 2021 in order to determine the impact of the global vaccination programmes.
They conducted a separate study based on the number of extra deaths documented above those that would have been anticipated during the same time period to account for under-reporting of deaths in nations with inferior monitoring systems.
China was excluded from the analysis because of its significant number and extremely strict lockdown policies, which the researchers claimed would have affected the findings.
The researchers discovered that if vaccinations had not been implemented, there would have been an estimated 18.1 million deaths over the study period based on officially reported COVID-19 deaths.
Of these, the model estimates that vaccination has prevented 14.4 million deaths, representing a global reduction of 79 per cent.
These findings do not account for under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths, that is common in lower income countries.
To account for this, the team conducted a second study based on all excess deaths that occurred within the same time period.
Out of a total of 31.4 million probable deaths that would have happened without vaccination, they discovered that the COVID-19 vaccine prevented an estimated 19.8 million deaths, a reduction of 63%.
The remaining 4.3 million averted deaths were estimated to have been prevented by indirect protection from reduced transmission of the virus in the population and reduced burden on healthcare systems, thereby improving access to medical care for those most in need, they said.
The study found that the vaccine impact changed over time and in different areas of the world as the pandemic progressed.
In the first half of 2021, the greatest number of deaths averted by vaccination was seen in lower middle-income countries, resulting from the significant epidemic wave in India as the Delta variant emerged.
The shortfall in the WHO target of fully vaccinating 40 per cent of the population of each country by the end of 2021 is estimated to have contributed to an additional 5,99,300 deaths worldwide that could have been prevented
The majority of these deaths occured in lower-middle income nations.
Our study demonstrates the enormous benefit that vaccines had in reducing deaths from COVID-19 globally,” said Professor Azra Ghani, Chair in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London.
Whilst the intense focus on the pandemic has now shifted, it is important that we ensure the most vulnerable people in all parts of the world are protected from ongoing circulation of COVID-19 and from the other major diseases that continue to disproportionately affect the poorest,” Ghani said.
The authors note many limitations to their findings. In particular, their model is based on some necessary assumptions,as well as the precise proportions of vaccine varieties that are delivered, however they were delivered and also the precise temporal arrangement of once new virus variants arrived in every country.
Additionally, they assumed that for every nation, the relationship between age and the percentage of COVID-19 deaths among infected people would be the same.