Las vacunas COVID-19 salvaron 20 millones de muertes en todo el mundo en el primer año

Según un nuevo estudio de modelado, publicado en Las enfermedades infecciosas de Lancetse estima que las vacunas COVID-19 han evitado 20 millones de muertes en todo el mundo en el primer año del programa de vacunas.

  • Primer estudio de modelado para cuantificar el impacto de[{” attribute=””>COVID-19 vaccines on a global scale estimates that 19.8 million out of a potential 31.4 million deaths were prevented in the first year after vaccines were introduced (December 8, 2020 – December 8, 2021).
  • A further 599,300 deaths could have been averted if the World Health Organisation’s target of vaccinating 40% of the population in every country by the end of 2021 had been met.
  • High- and upper-middle-income countries accounted for the greatest number of prevented deaths (12.2 million/ 19.8 million), highlighting inequalities in access to vaccines around the world.
  • The study is based on data from 185 countries and territories and is the first to assess deaths averted directly and indirectly as a result of COVID-19 vaccination, using COVID-19 death records and total excess deaths from each country (or estimates where official data was not available). 

COVID-19 vaccines reduced the potential global death toll during the pandemic by more than half in the year following their implementation, according to estimates from a mathematical modeling study published on June 23, 2022, in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

19.8 million out of a potential 31.4 million COVID-19 deaths were prevented worldwide in the first year of the vaccination program according to estimates based on excess deaths from 185 countries and territories.

The researchers estimate that a further 599,300 lives could have been saved if the World Health Organisation’s target of vaccinating 40% of the population in each country with two or more doses by the end of 2021 had been met.

Dr. Oliver Watson, lead author of the study, from Imperial College London, said: “Our findings offer the most complete assessment to date of the remarkable global impact that vaccination has had on the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the almost 20 million deaths estimated to have been prevented in the first year after vaccines were introduced, almost 7.5 million deaths were prevented in countries covered by the COVID-19 Vaccine Access initiative (COVAX). This initiative was set up because it was clear early on that global vaccine equity would be the only way out of the pandemic. 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 1 in 5 of the estimated lives lost due to COVID-19 in low-income countries could have been prevented. ”

Since the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered outside of a clinical trial setting on December 8, 2020, almost two-thirds of the world’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (66%). The COVID-19 Vaccine Access initiative (COVAX) has facilitated access to affordable vaccines for lower-income countries to try to reduce inequalities, with an initial target of giving two vaccine doses to 20% of the population in countries covered by the commitment by the end of 2021. The World Health Organisation expanded this target by setting a global strategy to fully vaccinate 70% of the world’s population by mid-2022, with an interim target of vaccinating 40% of the population of all countries by the end of 2021.

Despite the incredible speed of the vaccine roll-out worldwide, more than 3.5 million COVID-19 deaths have been reported since the first vaccine was administered in December 2020.

Several studies have sought to estimate the impact of vaccination on the course of the pandemic. These studies have focused on specific regions, such as individual countries, states, or cities. The latest study is the first to estimate the impact of COVID-19 vaccinations on a global scale and the first to assess the number of deaths averted both directly and indirectly.

Mr. Gregory Barnsley, co-first author of the study, from Imperial College London, said: “Quantifying the impact that vaccination has made globally is challenging because access to vaccines varies between countries, as does our understanding of which COVID-19 variants have been circulating, with very limited genetic sequence data available for many countries. It is also not possible to directly measure how many deaths would have occurred without vaccinations. Mathematical modeling offers a useful tool for assessing alternative scenarios, which we can’t directly observe in real life.”

To estimate the impact of global vaccination programs, the researchers used an established model of COVID-19 transmission using country-level data for officially recorded COVID-19 deaths occurring between 8 December 2020 and 8 December 2021. To account for the under-reporting of deaths in countries with weaker surveillance systems, they carried out a separate analysis based on the number of excess deaths recorded above those that would have been expected during the same time period. Where official data was not available, the team used estimates of all-cause excess mortality. These analyses were compared with an alternative hypothetical scenario in which no vaccines were delivered.

The model accounted for variation in vaccination rates between countries, as well as differences in vaccine efficacy in each country based on the vaccine types known to have been predominately used in those areas. Notably, China was not included in the analysis owing to its large population and very strict lockdown measures, which would have skewed the findings.

The team found that, based on officially recorded COVID-19 deaths, an estimated 18.1 million deaths would have occurred during the study period if vaccinations had not been implemented. Of these, the model estimates that vaccination has prevented 14.4 million deaths, representing a global reduction of 79%. These findings do not account for the under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths, which is common in lower-income countries. The team did a further analysis based on total excess deaths during the same time period to account for this. They found that COVID-19 vaccination prevented an estimated 19.8 million deaths out of a total of 31.4 million potential deaths that would have occurred without vaccination, a reduction of 63%.

More than three quarters (79%, 15.5 million/ 19.8 million) of deaths averted were due to the direct protection against severe symptoms provided by vaccination, leading to lower mortality rates. The remaining 4.3 million averted deaths were estimated to have been prevented by indirect protection from reduced transmission of the virus in the population and reduced burden on healthcare systems, thereby improving access to medical care for those most in need.

Vaccine impact changed over time and in different areas of the world as the pandemic progressed, the study found. In the first half of 2021, the greatest number of deaths averted by vaccination was seen in lower middle-income countries, resulting from the significant epidemic wave in India as the Delta variant emerged. This subsequently shifted to the greatest impact being concentrated in higher income countries in the second half of 2021, as restrictions on travel and social mixing were eased in some areas leading to greater virus transmission.

Overall, the number of estimated deaths prevented per person was greatest in high-income countries, reflecting the earlier and wider rollout of vaccination campaigns in these areas (66 deaths prevented per 10,000 people in high-income countries vs 2.711 deaths prevented per 10,000 people in low-income countries). High- and upper-middle-income countries accounted for the greatest number of deaths averted (12.2 million/ 19.8 million), highlighting inequalities in access to vaccines around the world.

For the 83 countries included in the analysis that are covered by the COVAX commitment to affordable vaccines, an estimated 7.4 million deaths were averted out of a potential 17.9 million (41%). However, failure to meet the COVAX target of fully vaccinating 20% of the population in some countries is estimated to have resulted in an additional 156,900 deaths. Though this figure represents a small proportion of the total global deaths, these preventable deaths were concentrated in 31 African nations, where 132,700 deaths could have been averted if the target had been met.

Similarly, the shortfall in the WHO target of fully vaccinating 40% of the population of each country by the end of 2021 is estimated to have contributed to an additional 599,300 deaths worldwide that could have been prevented. Lower-middle income countries accounted for the majority of these deaths (347,500/599,300 [59.7%]). A nivel regional, la mayoría de estas muertes se concentraron en las regiones de África y el Mediterráneo Oriental (348.900/599.300 [58.2%] y 126.800/599.300 [21.2%] respectivamente). Si se hubiera alcanzado la meta del 40 % en todos los países de bajos ingresos, la cantidad de muertes evitadas por la vacunación en estas áreas se habría más que duplicado (200 000 muertes adicionales evitadas además de las 180 300 muertes que se estima que se evitaron con las tasas de vacunación actuales). ).

Prof. Azra Ghani, presidente de Epidemiología de Enfermedades Infecciosas en el Imperial College de Londres: “Nuestro estudio demuestra el enorme beneficio que tuvieron las vacunas en la reducción de las muertes por COVID-19 a nivel mundial. Si bien el enfoque intenso sobre la pandemia ahora ha cambiado, es importante que nos aseguremos de que las personas más vulnerables en todas partes del mundo estén protegidas de la circulación continua de COVID-19 y de otras enfermedades importantes que continúan afectando de manera desproporcionada a los más pobres. Garantizar un acceso justo a las vacunas es fundamental, pero requiere algo más que la simple donación de vacunas. Se necesitan mejoras en la infraestructura y la distribución de vacunas, así como esfuerzos coordinados para combatir la información errónea sobre las vacunas y mejorar la demanda de vacunas. Solo entonces podremos asegurarnos de que todos tengan la oportunidad de beneficiarse de estas tecnologías que salvan vidas”.

Los autores señalan varias limitaciones a sus hallazgos. En particular, su modelo se basa en una serie de suposiciones necesarias, incluidas las proporciones precisas de los tipos de vacunas que se han entregado, cómo se entregaron y el momento preciso en que llegaron nuevas variantes del virus a cada país. También asumieron que la relación entre la edad y la proporción de muertes por COVID-19 que ocurren entre las personas infectadas es la misma para cada país. En términos más generales, los hallazgos del estudio deben considerarse en el contexto de la incertidumbre en el cálculo del número real de muertes por la pandemia debido a la diferencia en los informes de mortalidad por COVID-19 a nivel de país.

Escribiendo en un comentario vinculado, la profesora Alison Galvani, que no participó en el estudio, de[{” attribute=””>Yale University School of Public Health, USA, said: “The saving of more than 19 million lives by the unprecedented rapidity of development and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines is an extraordinary global health feat. Nonetheless, millions of additional lives could be saved by more equitable distribution of vaccines.”

She added: “High coverage in an individual country not only benefits that country but contributes to worldwide reduction in transmission and emergence of novel variants. An enduring collective response is both pragmatic and ethically imperative.”

Reference: “Global impact of the first year of COVID-19 vaccination: a mathematical modelling study” by Oliver J Watson, PhD; Gregory Barnsley, MSc; Jaspreet Toor, PhD; Alexandra B Hogan, PhD; Peter Winskill, PhD and Prof Azra C Ghani, PhD, 23 June 2022, The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(22)00320-6

The study was carried out by researchers at the Medical Research Council Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, UK. It was funded by a Schmidt Science Fellowship in partnership with the Rhodes Trust, World Health Organisation, UK Medical Research Council, Gavi, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, National Institute for Health Research and Community Jameel.

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