In their first year, vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives, the Associated Press reports.
Widespread vaccinations began in December 2020 after the UK and the US granted emergency authorizations for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. In the following year, the AP says that about 4.3 billion people were vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. A new analysis appearing in the Lancet Infectious Diseases estimates that this saved tens of millions of lives.
Researchers from Imperial College London used a mathematical model to estimate the number of deaths averted by COVID-19 vaccination, finding that it prevented 14.4 million deaths between December 2020 and December 2021, when using official reported deaths. When they instead used data on excess deaths, that number of prevented deaths increased to 19.8 million averted.
The findings "quantify just how much worse the pandemic could have been if we did not have these vaccines," first author Oliver Watson from Imperial College London tells the AP.
He and his colleagues note in their paper note, though, that more lives could have been saved if vaccines had been distributed more rapidly and more widely across the world and if uptake had been higher.