At least 470,000 people aged 60 and over have been directly saved by vaccines since their implementation began, data from 33 countries suggest.
The latest study from the WHO Regional Office for Europe and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, or ECDC, says the estimate does not include the lives saved by vaccinating those under 60, nor the lives saved. by the indirect effect of vaccination because of reduced transmission.
The numbers were calculated by estimating the number of deaths that would have occurred had it not been for the vaccines using actual death counts reported weekly.
The figure of almost half a million people denotes the difference between those estimates and the number of deaths reported by COVID-19 between December 2020 and November.
The scientists behind the study estimated that COVID-19 vaccination saved 469,186 lives in this age group in all 33 countries during the study period.
More importantly, the data suggests that vaccination has cut the expected number of deaths by about half.
In 30 countries with data also available on smaller age groups, the most significant number of lives saved was among people 80 years and older, with an estimated total of 261,421 lives.
Although COVID-19 proved to be devastating in terms of lethality, WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Henri Kluge, said that “we can now categorically say that without COVID-19 vaccines as a tool to contain this pandemic, many more people they would have died. “
“In some countries, the death toll would have been double what it is now without vaccines. It is therefore vitally important that all Member States in the European Region achieve high coverage for people in the groups. risk as soon as possible. ” he affirmed.
“Countries with the lowest vaccination rates must continue to prioritize those most at risk and protect vulnerable groups as quickly as possible.”
“But vaccines must be accompanied by a series of preventive measures to keep transmission levels low and keep society open,” Kluge explained.
The 33 European countries included in the investigation reported more than 1.5 million confirmed deaths related to COVID-19. 90.2% of the fatalities corresponded to people aged 60 years or more.
ECDC Director Andrea Ammon said that in fighting COVID, the impetus should now be to improve low vaccination rates in some countries on the continent.
“[This is] it is currently reflected in overburdened healthcare systems and high mortality rates, “he said.
“There are still too many people at risk of serious COVID-19 infection that we need to protect as soon as possible. Even in countries that have achieved good overall vaccination coverage, there are still sub-populations and age groups where coverage remains lower. of the desired “.
“Vaccination of the older age groups must remain an urgent priority to save the greatest number of lives in the coming weeks and months,” he concluded.
But vaccination is one part of the toolbox of essential measures needed to curb the pandemic, and it will not end the health crisis on its own.
“We know that the virus thrives in closed, crowded and confined spaces, and that is why we must also follow known measures to reduce transmission, especially now that colder weather is leading us to gather indoors,” said Kluge of the WHO.
“Wear a mask in crowded, enclosed, and confined spaces, cover your coughs and sneezes, keep physical distance from other people, and wash your hands regularly. Ventilation is also important, so if it’s safe to do so, open a window or a door to let in fresh air. “
“By making these actions part of our daily routine, we can all help stop infection and the spread of the virus. In the same way that we fasten our seat belts when we drive, we should think about washing our hands, wearing a mask , or stay away from other people, to protect yourself from infection, “concluded Kluge.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism