A study recently published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal says that Covid-19 vaccines have prevented over 42 lakh possible and potential deaths in India in the year 2021.
It has based its research on estimated ‘excess mortalities’ in India during the pandemic and found that the vaccines had lowered the potential death count by more than half in the year after it was implemented.
Vaccination Has Saved Lives
The researchers of the study claimed that 19.8 million people out of a potential 31.4 million pandemic deaths were prevented globally, based on the estimated excess deaths from around 185 countries and regions.
It also estimates a possibility that 5,99,300 lives could have been saved if the target, set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), of getting 40 per cent of the public to get vaccinated with two doses or more had actually been met.
The study mainly estimated the number of deaths that would have been prevented in the first year of vaccine distribution, from December 8, 2020, to December 8, 2021.
What Did The Researchers Say?
Oliver Watson, the lead author of the study, who’s from the Imperial College of London, said that for India, they estimate that around 42,10,000 deaths were prevented by vaccination in this time frame, adding, “This is our central estimate, with the uncertainty in this estimate ranging between 36,65,000-43,70,000,” as reported by NDTV.
Watson added that this study proves that vaccination has saved many lives in India, especially the “remarkable impact” that it has had, considering that India was the first country to be hit with the Delta variant.
The numbers and statistics for India are calculated based on the estimate that 51,60,000 (somewhere between 48,24,000-56,29,000) deaths may have happened during the entire pandemic. That number is ten times the official figure of casualties, 5,24,941, that is reported.
The lead author of the study also said that these calculations are based on the estimates of ‘excess mortality’ in India during the pandemic, which the researchers had sourced from The Economist, and that the data was similar to the estimates from WHO as well, along with independently investigating the death count based on excess mortality estimates and “seroprevalence surveys” after which they arrived at the same figure of an estimate that is ten times the official death count.
The Economist estimated that 2.3 million people had died in India due to COVID-19 by May 2021, contrary to the official death count of nearly 2,00,000.
Just last month, the WHO had also estimated that nearly 4.7 million deaths in India were linked to COVID, and that figure was challenged by the government, as reported by Financial Express.
Out of the total of 20 million deaths that were potentially prevented in the year following the introduction of vaccines, around 7.5 million were prevented in the countries under the COVID-19 Vaccine Access Initiative (COVAX). The main aim of COVAX was to create global vaccine equity to combat the pandemic.
However, the authors also note limitations in their findings, namely that their model of estimation is based on necessary assumptions like the proportions of vaccines, their delivery, and the precise time of the rise of the newer variants. Another limitation is that they have assumed that the relation between the age and the number of COVID deaths occurring is the same for every country.
Under-Reporting Of Deaths
Since the first vaccine was administered in December 2020, more than 3.5 million COVID deaths have been reported, despite the speed of vaccine roll-outs globally. To estimate the impact of vaccines, the researchers of the study used estimates of country-level data for recorded COVID deaths between December 8, 2020, and December 8, 2021.
However, to combat the severe under-reporting in lower surveillance and lower-income countries, they independently carried out an analysis based on the estimated excess deaths recorded that would have been expected in the same time frame. The research team found that almost 18.1 million people would have died in one year if vaccines were not administered.
According to the study, 79 per cent of deaths were prevented due to the direct protection against symptoms provided by the vaccines, which led to a lower mortality rate. The other 4.3 million were prevented by indirect protection due to reduced transmission and spread of the virus. Additionally, in the first half of 2021, more deaths were prevented in lower-middle-income countries due to the rise of the Delta variant in India. This shifted in the second half of 2021 to more deaths being prevented in higher-income countries with restrictions on travel being eased.
India’s Present COVID Situation
Presently, amid a rise in COVID cases across the country, India has recorded 17,336 cases, the highest daily count in four months. 13 deaths have also been recorded in the past 24 hours.
In a report by Scroll, the number of active cases has also gone up from 83,990 to 88,284, and the recovery rate has increased to 98.6 per cent, proving that the vaccination drives across the country have been effective.