The Lancet vaccine study is the best evidence yet that anti-vaccination killers

Official figures show that COVID-19 has killed more than 5.4 million people by 2021, but the real number may have been closer to 15 million. And the pandemic is far from over. But a powerful new study suggests that without the miracle of vaccines, COVID-19 would have cost about $20 million more lives alone from early December 2020 to early December 2021 – the first year vaccines were available.

That’s about half of the people killed during the entire span of World War II.

Yet the scientific power of vaccines, developed in a record less than 12 months after COVID-19 was first reported, could have saved millions more lives were it not for extremist politicians, conspiracy theories and gross inequality around the world .

Science has done it. But our political leaders, mostly on the political right, have failed us badly. If they had the moral strength to put the common good ahead of their own interests — to urge their constituents to get needles they were skeptical about and to care for those abroad — many millions would be alive today. Parents. grandparents Children.

What did the study release on Thursday and published in Lancet infectious diseases, Find? Researchers at Imperial College London looked at excess mortality – how many people actually died compared to the number who would have died had it not been for COVID-19 – in a model study which, as such studies necessarily are, is based on reasonable results but not necessarily perfect exact assumptions. They found nearly 20 million deaths were averted and that more than 60 percent of those occurred in higher-income countries. Most of the prevented deaths were due to vaccines’ ability to prevent serious diseases, but also because they reduced transmission and relieved health care systems.

In other words, despite the political rhetoric of populist leaders, vaccines have been spectacularly effective. This study highlights what we always knew, but with figures of this magnitude, we can only hope that it can prompt policymakers to learn some important lessons.

First, science is a modern marvel. When we invest in it, it literally pays us back with our lives. Not supporting medical science is not only foolhardy; it’s deadly. Incredibly, we still haven’t learned that lesson. Because Congress failed to reauthorize emergency COVID-19 funding, the Biden administration had to cut research funding for the next generation of vaccines. Members of Congress who stand in the way of scientific research risk their constituents’ lives.

Second, political leaders have questioned science and public health, questioned the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, and done everything in their power to crack down on any vaccination requirement — and it has cost lives. GOP governors have challenged virtually every vaccination mandate, and conservative courts have largely complied. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis even threatened Special Olympics over their vaccination requirements. What if political leaders weren’t looking to the next election, but instead championing public health and science? We would see far higher vaccination rates in America. And maybe we would avoid the embarrassment of having far higher COVID-19 death rates in red (or pro-Trump) counties than in blue ones.

Third, vaccine justice saves lives. If the US and Europe hadn’t hoarded scarce vaccine supplies (and amassed enough doses of vaccine to double or even triple their populations), many more people would be alive today. The new study found that about 600,000 lives would have been saved if the WHO target of vaccinating 40 percent of people in low-income countries had been met. But the benefits of vaccines could have been dramatically greater. If lower-income countries had adequate vaccine supplies and vaccine delivery infrastructure to save lives, to the same extent as higher-income countries reported in the Lancet study on infectious diseasesit could have saved millions of lives.

Even today, almost one in four African health workers is not fully vaccinated.

This leads to a fourth lesson: invest early. We could have largely avoided the vaccine shortages – which precluded early, high vaccination rates around the world – if we had made strategic investments and had different rules to increase vaccine supplies. We can learn this lesson to save lives now and for future pandemics. Regional vaccine centers should be set up to mass-produce mRNA and other vaccines. After almost two years of haggling, the WTO finally reached an agreement earlier this month to relinquish intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines. Such an exemption should be extended to all future global health emergencies. Scientific data should be accessible to everyone. And countries should use any incentives, incentives, bargaining power and legal tools necessary, such as the Defense Production Act in the United States, to boost vaccine production.

However, rapid production will not suffice. As low-income countries are now experiencing, providing vaccine doses will make little difference if the infrastructure — such as staff, transportation, and cold storage chains — is not in place. That needs funding. The world has consistently underinvested in this vaccine infrastructure. Already, the funding gap for vaccines (the gap between what WHO says is needed and what is actually allocated) is about $3.6 billion by 2022. The main obstacle is no longer supply, but operational bottlenecks and falling demand, which will require new approaches, e.g. B. Integrating vaccine delivery with other health activities, political leadership and public communication campaigns.

Finally, invest early not only in capacity, but in truth. Future analysis may well show us how many of the people who died from COVID-19 in wealthier countries were due to vaccine hesitancy, misinformation and disinformation. The current study should be read in conjunction with a previous study from the lancetwhich found that the most important factor associated with lower infection rates and fewer deaths per COVID-19 infection was trust.

People need to trust public health and science. People must trust the truth. That means major efforts to increase confidence in vaccines and combat vaccine hesitancy, from building media literacy and working with social media companies to prevent their platforms from delivering deadly information, to building networks of community-based organizations and leaders who can inspire confidence in vaccines. And voters must reject politicians who literally kill them.

We now have some of the strongest evidence of the immense life-saving power of COVID-19 vaccines since they first entered human arms. On the flip side of this data is the failure of society – our collective failure. As COVID-19 crashes down the political priority list, we brace ourselves for another disaster. We can only urge our political leaders to stop, reflect and act on the millions of lives that have been saved by vaccines.

Less than ever can we pretend we didn’t know. The Lancet vaccine study is the best evidence yet that anti-vaccination killers


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