The Indian government dismissed the WHO data and questioned the UN health body’s methodology
GENEVA, May 5 (The CONNECT) - New estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the full death toll associated directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 pandemic (described as excess mortality) between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 was approximately 14.9 or million nearly 1.5 crore.
Of these as many as 47 lakhs excess deaths were from India, WHO data showed.
The Indian government however dismissed the WHO data and questioned the UN health body’s methodology of computing and analysing the numbers.
“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,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”
Excess mortality is 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.
Excess mortality includes deaths associated with COVID-19 directly due to the disease or indirectly which could be due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems and society. Deaths linked indirectly to COVID-19 are attributable to other health conditions for which people were unable to access prevention and treatment because health systems were overburdened by the pandemic. The estimated number of excess deaths can be influenced also by deaths averted during the pandemic due to lower risks of certain events, like motor-vehicle accidents or occupational injuries.
Most of the excess deaths (84%) are concentrated in South-East Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Some 68% of excess deaths are concentrated in just 10 countries globally. Middle-income countries account for 81% of the 14.9 million excess deaths (53% in lower-middle-income countries and 28% in upper-middle-income countries) over the 24-month period, with high-income and low-income countries each accounting for 15% and 4%, respectively.
The estimates for a 24-month period (2020 and 2021) include a breakdown of excess mortality by age and sex. They confirm that the global death toll was higher for men than for women (57% male, 43% female) and higher among older adults. The absolute count of the excess deaths is affected by the population size. The number of excess deaths per 100,000 gives a more objective picture of the pandemic than reported COVID-19 mortality data.
“Measurement of excess mortality is an essential component to understand the impact of the pandemic. Shifts in mortality trends provide decision-makers information to guide policies to reduce mortality and effectively prevent future crises. Because of limited investments in data systems in many countries, the true extent of excess mortality often remains hidden,” said Dr Samira Asma, Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery at WHO.
“These new estimates use the best available data and have been produced using a robust methodology and a completely transparent approach.”
“Data is the foundation of our work every day to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable. We know where the data gaps are, and we must collectively intensify our support to countries, so that every country has the capability to track outbreaks in real-time, ensure delivery of essential health services, and safeguard population health,” said Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response.
India has been consistently objecting to the methodology adopted by WHO to project excess mortality estimates based on mathematical models. Despite India’s objection to the process, methodology and outcome of this modelling exercise,
- Thank You, but no thank you - PM Modi with Dr Tedors. File pic
WHO has released the excess mortality estimates without adequately addressing India’s concerns. India had also informed WHO that in view of the availability of authentic data published through Civil Registration System (CRS) by Registrar General of India (RGI), mathematical models should not be used for projecting excess mortality numbers for India.
The WHO says Excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is used to quantify the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic. Excess mortality is defined as the difference between the total number of deaths estimated for a specific place and given time period and the number that would have been expected in the absence of the pandemic (no-COVID-19 scenario). This difference is assumed to include deaths attributable directly to COVID-19 as well as deaths indirectly associated with COVID-19 through impacts on health systems and society, minus any deaths that would have occurred under normal circumstances but were averted due to pandemic-related changes in social conditions and personal behaviours.
It is important to note that other groups and countries have produced excess death estimates. The difference in the estimates produced by WHO and those produced by other groups are due to key differences in the input data used and assumptions made including how the expected deaths are calculated, the statistical model used, and the variables used to predict deaths in locations where limited or no data is available. There might also be variations of the period/month/week assessed. To minimize these differences, uncertainty intervals are provided, WHO explains
Indian government said Registration of births and deaths in India is extremely robust and is governed by decades old statutory legal framework i.e. “Births & Deaths Registration Act, 1969”. The Civil Registration data as well as Sample Registration data released annually by RGI has been used by a large number of researchers, policy makers and scientists both domestically & globally.
RGI is over a Century old statutory organization and is assisted by Chief Registrars of states/UTs and about 3 lakhs Registrars/Sub-Registrars across the country. Based on reports submitted by states/UTs, National reports - Vital Statistics of India based on Civil Registration System (CRS) are published annually by RGI. The last such National Report for the year 2019 was published in June 2021 and for the year 2020 has been published on 03rd May 2022. These reports are in public domain. India firmly believes that such robust and accurate data generated through Legal Framework of a Member State must be respected, accepted and used by WHO rather than relying on less than accurate mathematical projection based on non-official sources of data.