Without COVID-19 vaccines, virus-related deaths could have exceeded 4M in Europe: WHO

World
Wed, 17 Jan 2024 7:56 GMT
At least 1.4 million lives saved in European region thanks to safe, effective vaccines, says UN agency's regional chief.
Without COVID-19 vaccines, virus-related deaths could have exceeded 4M in Europe: WHO

Coronavirus vaccines have played a crucial role in preventing deaths in Europe as cumulative deaths were well below the projected 4 million due to widespread use, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

Europe Regional Director Hans Kluge said that at least 1.4 million lives in Europe were saved thanks to "safe and effective" vaccines.

"Without them, the European Region’s cumulative known death toll could have been around 4 million, possibly even higher," said Kluge as he presented a new report on the number of lives saved by vaccines in the region in a virtual news conference.

"More than 90% of lives saved were people over the age of 60," according to an analysis of 34 countries, he said.

"Overall, COVID-19 vaccines reduced death by 57% across the WHO European Region, between December 2020 when the vaccine rollouts began, and March 2023," he said and underscored that the first booster doses alone saved an estimated 700,000 lives.

Emphasizing that the power of vaccines is "irrefutable," he urged those who are at the highest risk of COVID-19 to continue to be re-vaccinated six to 12 months after their most recent dose.

Regarding the new variant of interest, JN.1, Kluge said it is fatly replacing other variants and is now the most common variant being reported globally as well as the dominant variant circulating in Europe -- accounting for 79% of sequenced variants.

"Though there’s no current evidence to suggest the JN.1 variant is more severe, the unpredictable nature of this virus shows how vital it is that countries continue to monitor for any new variants," Kluge warned.

He said the continuation of surveillance is important, about countries that have reduced or stopped reporting COVID-19 alongside other circulating respiratory viruses.

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