‘Extraordinary’ number of deaths avoided by Covid vax

Researchers estimate that 19.8 million out of a total of 31.4 million potential deaths were prevented in the first year after vaccines were introduced (December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021).The study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal was based on data from 185 countries and territories and was the first to assess deaths averted directly and indirectly as a result of Covid vaccination, the authors wrote.The news was welcomed by University of Queensland School of Medicine Associate Professor Paul Griffin, also the director of infectious diseases at Mater Health Services in Brisbane.“The challenges with any public health intervention is that it’s always hard to prove it was required and how much of an impact it had,” he said.“These sort of estimates reinforce what a lot of us have been saying, and while the vaccines are still enduring a very significant pandemic, the impact has been extraordinary and we need to recognise that and appreciate that in terms of affirmation.”NED-6507-Covid-Booster-GuideHowever, Professor Griffin said it was important for Australians not to assume the pandemic was over. “I think the biggest challenges we face is that maybe the communication of risk was a little bit high for a while and almost overnight, we pivoted to a message of reassurance that was probably a bit excessive given where we’re up to,” he said.“Many people think that pandemic is over, and that we’re in that post-pandemic state. But we’ve still got very high case numbers (averaging 30,000 or more nationally per day), high burdens on our hospitals and still a death rate that I think is unacceptable.“We need to make sure people understand the risk is still there and have an assumption of risk that’s sufficient for them to do the right things, and that includes particularly being up to date with their vaccines.“There will be people that are eligible for five vaccines now and a number of people don’t know about that. It’s also important for people to get tested when they have symptoms, practise good hand hygiene, socially distance where possible and use masks.” Professor Griffin said another important finding from The Lancet study was the inequities in vaccination rates – and death rates – between low and high-income countries.“It’s really important that we get equitable coverage globally with these vaccines,” he said.“We haven’t done well enough in so many countries. If you also look at the emergence of the variants in some cases that’s more likely to occur in a population with low vaccination rates. So there are many good reasons why we do you need to focus on equitable vaccination coverage.”High and upper-middle income countries accounted for the greatest number of prevented deaths (an estimated 12.2 million out of 19.8 million).“A further 599,300 deaths could have been averted if the World Health Organisation’s target of vaccinating 40 per cent of the population in every country (with two or more doses) by the end of 2021 had been met,” the authors wrote.Lead author Dr Oliver Watson, from the Imperial College London, said it was an important study.“Our findings offer the most complete assessment to date of the remarkable global impact that vaccination has had on the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.“Our findings show that millions of lives have likely been saved by making vaccines available to people everywhere, regardless of their wealth. However, more could have been done. If the targets set out by the WHO had been achieved, we estimate that roughly one in five of the estimated lives lost due to Covid-19 in low-income countries could have been prevented.”

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