The study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, is based on data from 185 countries and territories collected between December 8, 2020 and December 8, 2021.
This is the first time researchers have attempted to estimate the number of direct and indirect deaths that have been prevented with the help of the covid-19 vaccine.
In all, vaccine programs globally prevented 19.8 million potential virus-related deaths of the 31.4 million, representing a 63 percent decrease.
The study used official statistics – or estimates in cases where such data was lacking – on deaths from the coronavirus, as well as deaths in each country.
China is not included
The analyzes were then compared with a hypothetical scenario where no vaccination was taken. The model took into account differences in the degree of vaccination between countries and differences in vaccine efficacy based on the type of vaccine that was primarily used in each country.
China was not included in the study due to its large population and extensive lockdown measures, which the researchers said would have distorted the results.
The study also notes that most deaths were prevented in high- and middle-income countries. In total, these include 12.2 million – a reflection of the uneven distribution of vaccines in the world.
More can be saved
An additional 600,000 deaths could have been avoided if the WHO’s goal of 40 per cent vaccination coverage in each country had been met by the end of 2021.
“Millions of lives may have been saved by providing a vaccine to people around the world,” said Oliver Watson, lead author of the study at Imperial College London.
According to WHO statistics, a total of 6.3 million people died in covid-19 wards. But last month, the organization indicated that the same number could in fact be 15 million if direct and indirect deaths are taken into account.
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