COVID vaccines saved 20 million lives in year 1, scientists say

Nearly 20 million lives were saved by COVID-19 vaccines during their first year, but even more deaths could have been avoided if international targets for strokes were met, the researchers reported Thursday.

On 8 December 2020, a retired saleswoman in England received the first blow in what would become a global vaccination campaign. Over the next 12 months, more than 4.3 billion people around the world have lined up for vaccines.

The effort, albeit marred by persistent inequalitiesprevented deaths on an unimaginable scale, said Oliver Watson of Imperial College London, who led the new modeling studio.

“Catastrophic would be the first word that comes to mind,” Watson said of the outcome if vaccines weren’t available to fight the coronavirus. The results “quantify how much worse the pandemic would have been if we hadn’t had these vaccines.”

The researchers used data from 185 countries to estimate that vaccines prevented 4.2 million deaths from COVID-19 in India, 1.9 million in the United States, 1 million in Brazil, 631,000 in France and 507,000 in the UK. .

According to the study released Thursday, another 600,000 deaths would have been averted if the World Health Organization’s goal of 40% vaccination coverage by the end of 2021 had been met. in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

The main result – 19.8 million deaths from COVID-19 have been prevented – is based on estimates of how many more deaths than usual have occurred over the time period. Using only reported deaths from COVID-19, the same model produced 14.4 million vaccine-averted deaths.

London scientists have ruled out China due to uncertainty about the pandemic’s effect on deaths and its huge population.

The study has other limitations. The researchers did not include how the virus could have mutated differently in the absence of vaccines. And they didn’t take into account how blockages or use of masks would have changed if vaccines weren’t available.

Another group of models used a different approach to estimate that 16.3 million deaths from COVID-19 were prevented by vaccines. That work, from the Seattle Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, has not been published.

In the real world, people wear masks more often when cases rise, the institute’s Ali Mokdad said, and the vaccine-free 2021 delta wave would elicit a major political response.

“We may disagree on the number as scientists, but we all agree that COVID vaccines have saved many lives,” Mokdad said.

The findings underscore both the findings and the shortcomings of the vaccination campaign, said Adam Finn of Bristol Medical School in England, who like Mokdad was not involved in the study.

“Even though we did quite well this time – we saved millions and millions of lives – we could have done better and we should do better in the future,” said Finn.

Funding came from various groups including WHO; the UK Medical Research Council; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


AP Health and Science reporter Havovi Todd contributed.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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