The coronavirus pandemic could have been much worse without vaccines, according to a new study that claims the number of deaths recorded worldwide from the coronavirus could be more than three times what it is today.
In the year after the vaccine was first introduced in December 2020, more than 4.3 billion people were vaccinated, saving 20 million lives, according to research published Thursday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
If the World Health Organization’s target of 40% vaccination coverage in low-income countries by the end of 2021 were met, another 600,000 lives would be spared, the study said.
The findings “quantify how much worse the pandemic could have been if we didn’t have these vaccines,” said Oliver Watson, lead researcher at Imperial College London.
“Catastrophic would be the first word that comes to mind,” Watson said of the deaths that would have occurred without widespread vaccination.
More than 6.3 million people have died from the coronavirus, including more than a million Americans, according to Our World in Data. More than 40,000 New York City residents died from the virus, according to health officials.
Researchers examined data from all but ten of the world’s 195 countries and found that vaccines prevented 19.8 million deaths in total, including 4.2 million deaths in India and 1.9 million in the US.
One million people in Brazil were also spared death from the virus thanks to the vaccines, as were more than half a million people in both France and the United Kingdom, researchers said.
The study found that 14.4 million deaths were avoided when only the reported COVID-19 deaths were taken into account, but the number of lives saved grew significantly as scientists accounted for deaths likely related to the virus.
The study had some important limitations. China, the world’s most populous country, was among those excluded from the study due to lack of information about the virus’s effect on its massive citizens, researchers said. The effect of wearing masks, lockdowns and possible COVID-19 mutations in the absence of the virus were also not taken into account in the study.
An unpublished model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle estimated that 16.3 million lives were saved by vaccines.
“As scientists, we may not agree on the number, but we all agree that COVID vaccines have saved many lives,” said the institute’s Ali Mokdad, explaining that stricter policies would have been introduced globally if there were no vaccines during the delta variant wave.
“While we did pretty well this time — we’ve saved millions and millions of lives — we could have done better and should do better in the future,” said Adam Finn of Bristol Medical School in England, who is not involved. was among the published findings on Thursday. †
With AP wires