Corona vaccinations prevented 20 million deaths – SWR Knowledge

COVID-19 vaccines prevented 20 million deaths worldwide in the first year after their introduction. This was calculated by a British study of data collected around the world.

A mathematical modeling study indicates that a total of more than 31 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19. The British team of scientists said that the uneven distribution of vaccines prevented most deaths from occurring in rich countries. He criticizes that another 600,000 lives could have been saved if 40% of the world’s population had been vaccinated with two or more doses by the end of 2021. This was in fact what the World Health Organization had planned.

Vaccination against COVID-19 has saved more than 30 million people worldwide from dying from infection.


IMAGO / Willie Scheusky

Analyze data from 185 countries

The UK study is the first to estimate the impact of COVID-19 vaccines on a global scale, as well as the first to assess the number of deaths averted, both directly and indirectly. The researchers analyzed data from 185 countries and regions.

Dr Oliver Watson, lead author of the study from Imperial College London, said the findings provide the most comprehensive assessment to date of the global impact of vaccination. He stressed that equity in global immunization would be the only way out of the epidemic.

“Of the approximately 20 million deaths estimated to have been averted in the first year after the introduction of vaccines, approximately 7.5 million deaths were prevented in countries covered by the COVID-19 Vaccine Access Initiative (COVAX). Our results show that potentially millions of Lives have been saved by providing vaccines to people everywhere, no matter their wealth.”

Vaccination around the world

However, more could have been done, says Dr. Oliver Watson. It is estimated that approximately one in five estimated deaths from COVID-19 could have been prevented in low-income countries.

Since the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered outside a clinical trial on December 8, 2020, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (66%).

A student from Bangladesh receives the BioNtech Pfizer vaccine.  (Photo: IMAGO, IMAGO / UIG)

About 66% of the world’s population has now received at least one dose of the vaccine against COVID-19.



The Access to COVID-19 Vaccine (COVAX) initiative has increased access to affordable vaccines for low-income countries. Their goal is to reduce inequality and vaccinate as many people as possible around the world. Although vaccines were available and vaccinated very quickly, more than 3.5 million people died from COVID-19.

research approach

The researchers used a well-established model to model the transmission of COVID-19 for the study. They took mortality data for the model from official bodies in a total of 185 countries from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021. In order to also take into account the possibility of deaths not being recorded, especially in countries with poor surveillance, the scientists presented a separate analysis. Where official data were not available, the team used estimates of all-cause deaths.

These analyzes were compared with an alternative hypothetical scenario where no vaccines were administered. Differences in vaccination rates and vaccination efficacy by country were taken into account. In particular, China was not included in the analysis due to its large population and very strict lockdown measures, which would have skewed the results.

The authors also point out several limitations to their findings. Their model relies on a number of necessary assumptions, including the exact proportions of what types of vaccines are shipped, how they are shipped, and the exact time for new viral variants to arrive in each country. They also assumed that the relationship between age and the proportion of COVID-19 deaths among those infected was the same in each country.

In front of Pfizer's New York headquarters, a group protested the unfair distribution of vaccines.  (Photo: IMAGO, IMAGO / Pacific Press Agency)

There are currently calls for vaccine patents to be released so more people can be vaccinated around the world.


IMAGO / Pacific Press Agency

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