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WHO: COVID-19 pandemic caused nearly 15 million excess deaths

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The World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in nearly 15 million excess deaths between January 2020 and December 2021. Scientists estimated between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems. The WHO eventually settled on 14.9 million excess deaths.

“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a Thursday statement.

The nearly 15 million excess deaths are more than twice the current worldwide death toll of just over 6 million, as reported by Johns Hopkins University. According to WHO, while the COVID-19 death toll only tracks deaths directly caused by the virus, excess deaths are “calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years.”

“This is extremely important information for anyone to have, especially policymakers and the public,” WHO Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery Dr. Samira Asma said. “We need to know the true toll of the pandemic. And excess death provides us those metrics to assess the true impact of the pandemic.”

WHO said it wasn’t yet able to break down the data to distinguish between direct deaths from COVID-19 and those related to effects of the pandemic. The agency plans a future project examining death certificates.

Thursday’s estimate was based on country-reported data and statistical modeling. However, only about half of countries provided information.

“Because of limited investments in data systems in many countries, the true extent of excess mortality often remains hidden,” Dr. Asma said. “These new estimates use the best available data and have been produced using a robust methodology and a completely transparent approach.”

In a statement following the release of WHO’s data, India disputed WHO’s methodology. India’s Health and Family Welfare Ministry called the analysis and data collection methods “questionable” and complained that the new excess death estimates were released “without adequately addressing India’s concerns.”

Dr. Samira Asma | WHO Assistant Director-General: “What we released today is a staggering number of 14.9 million excess deaths since the start of the pandemic from January 2020 to December 2021.”
Jimmie Johnson: THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION REPORTING A SHOCKING MILESTONE TODAY.
NEARLY 15 MILLION DEATHS EITHER DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY CAUSED BY COVID-19.
THE NEW NUMBERS ARE SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN THE CURRENT WORLDWIDE DEATH TOLL OF ABOUT 6 MILLION PEOPLE.
WELL — THAT’S WHERE THE TERM “EXCESS DEATHS” APPLIES.
IT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE NUMBER OF DEATHS RECORDED AND THOSE NORMALLY EXPECTED IN THE ABSENCE OF THE PANDEMIC.

Dr. Samira Asma | WHO Assistant Director-General: “This is extremely important information for anyone to have, especially policymakers and the public. We need to know the true toll of the pandemic.”

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The World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in nearly 15 million excess deaths between January 2020 and December 2021. Scientists estimated between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems. The WHO eventually settled on 14.9 million excess deaths.

“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a Thursday statement.

The nearly 15 million excess deaths are more than twice the current worldwide death toll of just over 6 million, as reported by Johns Hopkins University. According to WHO, while the COVID-19 death toll only tracks deaths directly caused by the virus, excess deaths are “calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years.”

“This is extremely important information for anyone to have, especially policymakers and the public,” WHO Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery Dr. Samira Asma said. “We need to know the true toll of the pandemic. And excess death provides us those metrics to assess the true impact of the pandemic.”

WHO said it wasn’t yet able to break down the data to distinguish between direct deaths from COVID-19 and those related to effects of the pandemic. The agency plans a future project examining death certificates.

Thursday’s estimate was based on country-reported data and statistical modeling. However, only about half of countries provided information.

“Because of limited investments in data systems in many countries, the true extent of excess mortality often remains hidden,” Dr. Asma said. “These new estimates use the best available data and have been produced using a robust methodology and a completely transparent approach.”

In a statement following the release of WHO’s data, India disputed WHO’s methodology. India’s Health and Family Welfare Ministry called the analysis and data collection methods “questionable” and complained that the new excess death estimates were released “without adequately addressing India’s concerns.”

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