COVID Study Puts Toll at 3 Times Official Count

Researchers say pandemic could have caused 18M deaths worldwide
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2022 5:05 PM CDT
COVID Death Toll Worldwide Could Be 18M: Study
A volunteer disinfects the area as it snows Saturday in Changchun, in northeast China's Jilin province. On Friday, China ordered the city of 9 million into lockdown after a spike in the number of omicron infections.   (Chinatopix Via AP)

The World Health Organization has reported that, through 2021, almost 6 million people died in the COVID-19 pandemic. Now a new study has found that the actual total could be three times that estimate: 18.2 million. The real number of deaths "is much higher than simply assessed by reported COVID-19 deaths in most countries," said Haidong Wang, one of the authors of the study and a population health expert at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, Nature reports. "Understanding the true death toll from the pandemic is vital for effective public health decision-making."

The research, published Thursday in the Lancet, looked at the number of "excess deaths" around the world in 2020 and 2021. Using modeling, the team calculated the number of "expected" deaths in years unaffected by a global pandemic and compared that figure to the total number who died of any cause, per CBS News. Omicron's peak in many places, which resulted in an increase in COVID fatalities, was not included in the work.

In the US, the official count is about 960,000 deaths. The study estimates the actual toll around 1.13 million. The US does not have one of the highest rates of excess deaths, the study found, but its number of excess deaths is among the highest. Researchers said India, the US, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, and Pakistan accounted for the biggest cumulative toll. "Further research will help to reveal how many deaths were caused directly by COVID-19," Wang said, "and how many occurred as an indirect result of the pandemic." (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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