Over 42 lakh deaths were prevented by Covid-19 vaccinations in India in 2021 after the country launched the first phase of inoculation on January 16 that year, PTI reported citing The Lancet study.

The figures are based on estimates of excess deaths – the gap between expected and observed mortality from a disease – that occurred during the pandemic. Health agencies depend on these estimates to arrive at a better understanding of the Covid-19 toll.

The study published in The Lancet on Thursday is titled “Global impact of the first year of Covid-19 vaccination”. The findings are based on the estimates of excess deaths from 185 countries and territories.

The researchers estimated the number of deaths that were prevented between December 8, 2020, and December 8, 2021. The vaccination drives across the globe had begun in December 2020.

“The impact of Covid-19 vaccination programmes was determined by estimating the additional lives lost if no vaccines had been distributed,” said the study led by author Oliver Watson from the Imperial College of London.

Watson added: “For India, we estimate that 42,10,000 deaths were prevented by vaccination in this period. This is our central estimate, with the uncertainty in this estimate ranging between 36,65,000-43,70,000.”

As of Friday, India’s Covid-19 toll is 5,24,954, according to the Union health ministry.

But Watson said that the India figures in his study are based on the estimates published in The Economist that are evaluation done by the World Health Organization. He said that between 48.2 lakh and 56.3 lakh deaths might have occurred in the country. This number is 10 times higher than the official Indian ministry figure.

In an article published in The Economist, the magazine had referred to a research by Christopher Leffler of the Virginia Commonwealth University, to suggest that India’s actual toll could be more than 20 lakh by the start of May 2021.

In its May 5 report, the World Health Organization had said that India’s Covid-19 toll could be 47 lakh – 10 times higher than what was being reported by the health ministry.

India had refuted both the reports.

Watson said that the vaccination campaign in India has most likely saved millions of lives.

“This shows the remarkable impact that the vaccination has had, especially in India, which was the first country to experience the impact of the Delta variant [in the second Covid-19 wave,” he added.

On Friday, India recorded 17,336 new coronavirus cases, taking the cumulative tally since the pandemic began in January 2020 to 4,33,62,294.

According to the health ministry, 196.77 crore Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country since the start of the inoculation drive.

Global figures

The study also said that 1.98 crore out of a potential 3.14 crore Covid-19 deaths were prevented across the globe in the first year of the vaccination programme, reported PTI.

“The saving of 1.98 crore lives by the unprecedented rapidity of development and roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines is an extraordinary global health feat,” said Professor Alison Galvani from Yale University School of Public Health, United States, said.

The World Health Organization had targeted to vaccinate 40% of the population in every country with two or more doses by the end of 2021. An additional 5.99 lakh deaths could have been prevented if this target was met, the study added.