The launch of the Covid vaccine has been hailed as an important turning point in the pandemic — and new research has rightly revealed.
A study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases estimated that nearly 20 million lives were saved in just one year by the vaccine.
The first stab was given to Maggie Keenan, 91, on December 8, 2020, in the United Kingdom, followed by 81-year-old Bill Shakespeare.
The UK was on the cusp of another wave of infections, but the vaccination program appears to be the light at the end of the tunnel.
Academics at Imperial College London studied data from 185 countries and found that 19.8 million deaths were averted in the first year of the vaccine’s launch, between December 2020 and December 2021.
John Hopkins University in the United States believes that about 6.3 million people have died from Covid around the world since the beginning of the epidemic, while there have been more than 540 million cases of the virus globally.
About 11.6 billion vaccines have been delivered.
“Covid-19 vaccination has dramatically changed the course of the epidemic, saving tens of millions of lives globally,” the authors explained.
Dr Oliver Watson, the study’s lead author, said this was evidence of the “remarkable global impact” of the vaccination programme.
“Of the approximately 20 million deaths estimated to have been averted in the first year after the introduction of vaccines, nearly 7.5 million deaths were prevented in countries covered by the Covid-19 Vaccine Access Initiative (Covax),” he added.
This program promoted equality in vaccines around the world, regardless of individuals’ wealth or their countries of origin.
It is believed that at least two-thirds of the world’s population has now taken at least one blow.
More could have been done
The researchers concluded that most deaths prevented occurred in rich nations, and they estimate that 12.2 million lives saved were in high- and middle-income countries.
The paper also suggested that an additional 600,000 deaths could have been avoided if the World Health Organization’s vaccination goals – provoked by 40% of each country’s population – had been met by the end of 2021.
Many countries have already missed the target of vaccinating 10% of their population last September.
“The virus is moving faster than the global distribution of vaccines,” the World Health Organization said.
He adds that if the doses were distributed fairly, there would have been enough for all health workers and the elderly globally.
Dr Watson explained: “More could have been done. If the goals set by the World Health Organization had been achieved, we estimate that approximately one in five of the estimated lives lost to Covid-19 in low-income countries could have been prevented.” .
The paper’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 coverage for vaccines.”
This still does not mean that the epidemic is over
far from it. The recent rise in cases of the Omicron sub variants, BA.4 and BA.5, has raised new concerns that the vaccine’s efficacy is waning.
It has now been about six months since the government touted the booster program to curb the Omicron wave in the UK, and Covid cases are increasing for the first time since March.
The new strains also sparked fresh debate about whether they could target lung cells, such as the previous alpha and delta dominant variants, which could lead to a resurgence of the infection.
This is particularly worrying because although the initial Omicron strain was significantly more transmissible, it caused less severe symptoms and was less likely to trigger Covid for a prolonged period.
However, scientists are working on specialized Covid vaccines. Moderna is now testing a two-in-one vaccine that should produce “very high levels of antibodies”.
The company’s chief medical officer, Dr. Paul Burton, said he was confident this “would translate into clinical protection against infection from any of the Omicron family.”