Data has revealed that around half a million lives among older adults have been saved in Europe due to the implementation of COVID vaccinations.
A study carried out by researchers from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and national public health institutes and ministries, data suggests that COVID vaccinations have prevented almost 470,000 deaths among people aged 60 years and over in Europe.
The investigation, which is published in Eurosurveillance, analysed deaths between December 2020 and November 2021, identifying that COVID vaccinations prevented slightly over half (51%) of the expected deaths caused by the disease during this period.
To perform their study, the team estimated the number of lives saved in the aged 60 and over age group from COVID vaccinations in 33 countries, employing statistics from weekly reported deaths and vaccination coverage. For the study period, the researchers utilised reported data on COVID-19 age-specific vaccination and age-aggregated mortality for people aged 60 and over, which was analysed from 33 of the 51 countries in the WHO European Region.
The researchers ascertained that due to the rapid development, licensure, and roll-out of various COVID-19 vaccines from late 2020 onwards, uptake of the vaccines in priority groups increased so that 80% of people 60 years and older had received a complete series of COVID vaccinations, with 84% receiving at least one dose.
Safeguarding older adults with COVID vaccinations
From this data, the team determined that 51% of the total estimated deaths were avoided through COVID vaccinations, with the most significant impacts displayed in Iceland, where 93% of deaths were averted. The smallest impact was shown in Ukraine, where 6% of estimated deaths were avoided.
The three countries that had 60% of their population of people 60 years and older fully vaccinated – Moldova, Ukraine, and Romania – had a maximum of 20% averted deaths during the study. In the four countries that achieved very high complete vaccination coverage of above 90% – Israel, Malta, England, and Scotland – the proportion of deaths averted by week 45 in 2021 exceeded 65%.
The authors of the study commented: “This direct impact has been heterogeneous because of the speed and extent of the vaccination in eligible groups. Countries with high early uptake (including France, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain, England, and Scotland) have substantially reduced predicted mortality, especially in those 80 years and older. Other countries have experienced more limited impact of vaccination to date.”