Health

COVID-19 pandemic has killed nearly 15M globally, including indirect deaths: WHO

The World Health Organization is estimating that nearly 15 million died directly or indirectly from COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021.

WHO provided a range of 13.3 million deaths to 16.6 million between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021, deaths that it said Thursday was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The deaths were calculated by finding the difference between the number of deaths that occurred and the number expected if there was no COVID-19 pandemic based on data from previous years.

WHO calls the deaths “excess mortality,” which includes deaths indirectly from COVID-19, such as from its impact on health systems and society. For example, death from being unable to access regular care due to health care being overburdened would be counted.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that the newly revealed estimate shows a 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 is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes,” he said.

The organization used the “best available data” but noted that limited investments in data systems in many countries impacted the accuracy of the estimate.

Johns Hopkins University had previously reported in early March 2022 that over six million people have died from the virus, while Statistics Canada reported in November 2021 that Canada has seen more than 19,000 excess deaths from the pandemic.

WHO said 84 percent of the excess deaths it reported happened in South-East Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and 68 percent of them occurred in 10 countries. Middle-income countries accounted for 81 percent of the excess deaths, while high-income countries accounted for 15 percent of the deaths and four percent for low-income countries.

The global death toll is broken down to 57 percent male and 43 percent female and was higher among older adults.