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One in five Covid deaths in poorer countries were preventable, new research shows

ONE in five Covid-19 deaths in poorer countries could have been prevented if global vaccine targets had been met during the first year of the jab rollout, new research suggests. 

A study led by academics at Imperial College London estimates that almost 20 million lives around the world were saved thanks to Covid jabs in the 12 months from December 8, 2020 – when the first vaccine was administered outside of clinical trials. 

But more deaths were prevented in wealthy nations, with an estimated 12.2 million lives saved in high and upper-middle income countries, the experts said.

A further 600,000 deaths could have been prevented if the World Health Organisation’s target of vaccinating 40 per cent of people in every country by the end of 2021 had been achieved, the authors found.

This “reinforces the need for vaccine equity and coverage,” the authors wrote. 

The research, due to be published today in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, is based on information from 185 countries using estimates on vaccination rates, Covid-19 deaths and excess death records. 

Lead author Dr Oliver Watson, from Imperial College London, said the findings offer the most complete assessment to date of the impact of the vaccination programme.

Of the almost 20 million deaths prevented in the first year of the vaccination programme, almost 7.5 million were prevented in countries covered by the Covid-19 Vaccine Access initiative (Covax) – a global initiative set up to deliver jabs to poorer nations. 

“Our findings show that millions of lives have likely been saved by making vaccines available to people everywhere, regardless of their wealth,” Dr Watson said. 

“However, more could have been done. If the targets set out by the WHO had been achieved, we estimate that roughly one in five of the estimated lives lost due to Covid-19 in low-income countries could have been prevented.”

Global justice campaigners have condemned rich nations, including Britain, for hoarding doses and refusing to share Covid vaccine recipes with poor countries. 

Pharma campaigner at Global Justice Now Tim Bierley said the research “confirms that the outrageously unequal distribution of these vaccines has had a terrible human cost around the world.” 

“The failure of our political leaders to put saving lives before corporate profits in the pandemic is an ongoing scandal, but it is not too late to change course,” he said. 

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