The launch of the Covid vaccine was hailed as a significant turning point in the pandemic – and rightly so, new research has revealed.
A study published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases estimates that around 20 million lives were saved in just one year due to the vaccine.
The first jab was administered to Maggie Keenan, 91, on December 8, 2020, in the UK, followed by 81-year-old Bill Shakespeare.
The UK was about to enter another wave of infections, but the vaccination program appeared to be the light at the end of the tunnel.
a division of numbers
Academics at Imperial College London analyzed data from 185 countries and found that 19.8 million deaths were averted in the first year of the vaccine’s launch alone, from December 2020 to December 2021.
John Hopkins University in the US believes that about 6.3 million people have died of Covid worldwide since the start of the pandemic, while there have been more than 540 million cases of the virus worldwide.
About 11.6 billion vaccines have been delivered.
The authors explained: “Vaccination against Covid-19 has substantially altered the course of the pandemic, saving tens of millions of lives worldwide.”
The Doctor. Oliver Watson, the study’s lead author, said this is testament to the “remarkable global impact” the vaccination program has had.
He added: “Of the nearly 20 million deaths estimated to have been averted in the first year after vaccines were introduced, nearly 7.5 million deaths were averted in countries covered by the Covid-19 Vaccine Access (Covax) initiative.”
This program promoted vaccine equity around the world, regardless of the wealth of individuals or their country of origin.
At least two-thirds of the world’s population is believed to have received at least one jab.
‘More could have been done’
The researchers concluded that the majority of deaths averted occurred in rich countries, estimating that 12.2 million of the lives saved occurred in high- and upper-middle-income countries.
The paper also suggested that 600,000 more deaths could have been avoided if the World Health Organization (WHO) vaccination targets – reaching 40% of the population of all countries by the end of 2021 – were met.
Many countries have already missed the target of vaccinating 10% of their populations last September.
The WHO stated: “The virus is moving faster than the global distribution of vaccines.”
It adds that if the doses had been distributed equitably, there would have been enough for all health professionals and elderly people around the world.
The Doctor. Watson explained: “More could have been done. Had the targets set by the WHO been met, we estimate that approximately one in five of the estimated lives lost to Covid-19 in low-income countries could have been avoided.”
The article’s authors also wrote: “Inadequate access to vaccines in low-income countries has limited impact in these settings, reinforcing the need for equity and global vaccine coverage.”
That still doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.
Far from it. A recent increase in cases of the Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants has raised new concerns that the vaccine’s effectiveness is waning.
It’s been about six months since the booster launch program was promoted by the government to stem a wave of Omicron in the UK, and Covid cases are rising for the first time since March.
The new strains have also sparked fresh debate over whether they can target lung cells, like the earlier dominant variants Alpha and Delta, which could trigger another resurgence of infections.
This is particularly concerning because while the initial Omicron strain was significantly more transmissible, it triggered less severe symptoms and was less likely to trigger long Covid.
However, scientists are working on specialized vaccines against Covid. Moderna is now testing a two-in-one jab that should produce “very high levels of antibodies”.
The company’s medical director, Dr. Paul Burton, said he is confident that this “will translate into clinical protection against infections for any member of the Omicron family.”