William Msemburi, Ariel Karlinsky, Victoria Knutson et al.: The WHO estimates of excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, in: Nature (December 2022), online in: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05522-2.
The World Health Organization has a mandate to compile and disseminate statistics on mortality, and the authors have been tracking the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic since the beginning of 2020. Reported statistics on COVID-19 mortality are problematic for many countries owing to variations in testing access, differential diagnostic capacity and inconsistent certification of COVID-19 as cause of death. Beyond what is directly attributable to it, the pandemic has caused extensive collateral damage that has led to losses of lives and livelihoods. In their study, the authors report a comprehensive and consistent measurement of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by estimating excess deaths, by month, for 2020 and 2021. They predict the pandemic period all-cause deaths in locations lacking complete reported data using an overdispersed Poisson count framework that applies Bayesian inference techniques to quantify uncertainty. They estimate 14.83 million excess deaths globally, 2.74 times more deaths than the 5.42 million reported as due to COVID-19 for the period. There are wide variations in the excess death estimates across the six World Health Organization regions. The authors describe the data and methods used to generate these estimates and highlight the need for better reporting where gaps persist. They discuss various summary measures, and the hazards of ranking countries’ epidemic responses.