Asian Reporter web extra, June 23, 2022
In this March 2021 photo provided by Pfizer, vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech
COVID-19 vaccine are prepared for packaging at the company’s facility in
Puurs, Belgium. According to a study published in the journal Lancet
Infectious Diseases, nearly 20 million lives were saved by COVID-19
vaccines during their first year, but even more deaths could have been
prevented if global targets had been reached. The researchers used data
from 185 countries to estimate that vaccines prevented 4.2 million
COVID-19 deaths in India, 1.9 million in the United States, 1 million in
Brazil, 631,000 in France, and 507,000 in the United Kingdom. (Pfizer
COVID vaccines saved 20M lives in 1st year,
By Carla K. Johnson
The Associated Press
Nearly 20 million lives were saved by COVID-19 vaccines during their
first year, but even more deaths could have been prevented if
international targets for the shots had been reached, researchers
On December 8, 2020, a retired shop clerk in England received the
first shot in what would become a global vaccination campaign. Over the
next 12 months, more than 4.3 billion people around the world lined up
for the vaccines.
The effort, though marred by persisting inequities, prevented deaths
on an unimaginable scale, said Oliver Watson of Imperial College London,
who led the new modelling study.
"Catastrophic would be the first word that comes to mind," Watson
said of the outcome if vaccines hadn’t been available to fight the
coronavirus. The findings "quantify just how much worse the pandemic
could have been if we did not have these vaccines."
The researchers used data from 185 countries to estimate that
vaccines prevented 4.2 million COVID-19 deaths in India, 1.9 million in
the United States, 1 million in Brazil, 631,000 in France, and 507,000
in the United Kingdom.
An additional 600,000 deaths would have been prevented if the World
Health Organization (WHO) target of 40% vaccination coverage by the end
of 2021 had been met, according to the study published in the journal
Lancet Infectious Diseases.
The main finding — 19.8 million COVID-19 deaths were prevented — is
based on estimates of how many more deaths than usual occurred during
the time period. Using only reported COVID-19 deaths, the same model
yielded 14.4 million deaths averted by vaccines.
The London scientists excluded China because of uncertainty around
the pandemic’s effect on deaths there and its huge population.
The study has other limitations. The researchers did not include how
the virus might have mutated differently in the absence of vaccines. And
they did not factor in how lockdowns or mask wearing might have changed
if vaccines weren’t available.
Another modelling group used a different approach to estimate that
16.3 million COVID-19 deaths were averted by vaccines. That work, by the
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, has not been
In the real world, people wear masks more often when cases are
surging, said the institute’s Ali Mokdad, and 2021′s delta wave without
vaccines would have prompted a major policy response.
"We may disagree on the number as scientists, but we all agree that
COVID vaccines saved lots of lives," Mokdad said.
The findings underscore both the achievements 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.
"Although we did pretty well this time — we saved millions and
millions of lives — we could have done better and we should do better in
the future," Finn said.
Funding came from several groups including WHO; the UK Medical
Research Council; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and the Bill and Melinda
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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