According to a new study from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80% of global deaths from COVID-19 during the first two years of the pandemic occurred among people aged 60 and over. or more.
The trend held true across countries of all economic backgrounds, the report released Thursday found. But older populations in low- and middle-income countries experienced the highest death rates and accounted for the majority of global COVID-19 death estimates.
More than 5.4 million deaths from COVID-19 were reported worldwide in 2020 and 2021, but the WHO estimates that there were 14.9 million excess deaths during that time. Excess deaths are the number of deaths above what is expected. The estimate means the number of COVID-19-related deaths is more than double the official number, a trend that previous research also found.
“The large disparity observed between reported deaths and estimated excess mortality, especially in upper-middle-, lower-middle-, and lower-income countries, makes determining the true mortality associated with COVID-19 challenging,” the authors wrote in the study.
The research also found that the average percentage of adults aged 60 and over who received their primary vaccinations was 76% by the end of 2022, which is significantly below the WHO goal of fully vaccinating all at-risk populations.
“These vaccines have been found to be safe and highly effective in reducing COVID-19 severity, hospitalizations, and mortality; however, despite available evidence on reported effectiveness, COVID-19 vaccination coverage among older adults has yet to approach the WHO target of 100% in many parts of the world,” said the study.
The researchers wrote that limitations in access to vaccines in many low- and middle-income countries impeded the ability to implement the injections, so those “countries are taking longer to reach recommended targets for primary series and coverage of booster dose as recommended by WHO and national health”. authorities.”
The researchers suggested that more efforts are needed to increase vaccination rates among older adults. Even high-income countries like the US, where vaccination rates are significantly higher than low-income countries, have had problems with vaccine hesitancy and other vaccine acceptance issues.
“As the fourth year of the pandemic enters, booster doses of the vaccine have been shown to restore or enhance protection against infection, symptomatic illness, and severe illness beyond what was originally provided by the primary series,” they wrote. the authors in the report. “This is particularly important because most countries have ended most mandatory public health and behavioral measures to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2.”