Report: COVID-19 Death Toll Could Top 18 Million, Deltacron Rears
The death toll related to COVID-19 is more than 6 million, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard, but it has long been suspected that the toll is significantly higher. A new study suggests that the death rate could be three times higher, around 18 million people.
Data from the study was published in The Lancet and was led by researchers from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The study examined excess mortality rates from Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021. Official death results were pegged at 5.94 million when the study was conducted. The Johns Hopkins database did not record the six millionth death until February.
Data from the study showed that excess deaths due to COVID-19 were largest in South Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The country hit hardest by COVID-19 deaths was India, with an estimated 4.07 million deaths, followed by the United States, with an estimated 1.13 million deaths. Russia was expected to have about 1.07 million deaths, followed by Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan, which saw hundreds of thousands of estimated deaths.
Haidong Wang, a demography specialist at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told CNN that excess mortality is a more accurate measurement of the impact of the pandemic “because of the known issues in underreporting of direct COVID-19 deaths and because of the deadly indirect effects of the pandemic.”
“The full impact of the pandemic has been much greater than what is indicated by reported deaths due to COVID-19 alone. Strengthening death registration systems worldwide, long understood to be crucial to global public health strategy, is necessary for improved monitoring of this pandemic and future pandemics. In addition, further research is warranted to help distinguish the proportion of excess mortality that was directly caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection and the changes in causes of death as an indirect consequence of the pandemic,” the study authors said.
A New Variant
A new variant unofficially dubbed Deltacron, a combination of the Delta and Omicron variants, has been identified. The World Health Organization reported the variant had been found in France, the Netherlands and Denmark. A USA Today report also indicated that the variant has been found in the U.S. Researchers have suggested it does not spread as quickly as its parent variants. They indicated that the unlikelihood of significant spread would not require the variant to receive an official designation with a Greek letter.
More than $8 Billion in COVID-19 Aid Fraud
The U.S. Department of Justice has discovered more than $8 billion in COVID-19 with assistance funds set aside to help during the pandemic. Fraud was related to the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, unemployment insurance programs and other related funds for the pandemic. The Hill reported that the DOJ has created a new position to track down the fraudsters and bring them to justice.
New COVID-19-Related Laws Pursued
State governments across the nation have been pushing different bills related to the pandemic. Some bills protect physicians who prescribe the controversial anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin, while others aim at vaccine discrimination.
Lawmakers in Idaho are driving a bill to prevent public and private employers from discriminating against those who have not been vaccinated. According to an A.P. report, the bill cleared the Idaho Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee. Another A.P. report shows the Kentucky House of Representatives cleared a bill that would prevent state and local governments and public colleges from requiring employees or students to disclose their immunization status related to COVID-19. The A.P. said the bill would also allow parents of school-age children to opt out of a coronavirus vaccine based on “conscientiously held beliefs.”
Regarding Ivermectin, USA Today reported multiple bills in state legislatures aimed at protecting physicians who prescribe the anti-parasitic for COVID-19, even though there has been no clinical study showing its efficacy in preventing or treating the virus. The report shows that 26 states have proposed or passed legislation to increase patient access to the drug.
Pangolins confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam have been found to be infected with a virus similar to SARS-CoV-2. Previously, this had only been seen in China, highlighting the potential viral threat related to the illegal trade of animals.
Paxlovid Greenlit in the Philippines
Pfizer’s oral antiviral Paxlovid has been authorized for use in the Philippines. Authorization of the antiviral comes after Merck and Ridgeback’s molnupiravir and Roche’s antibody cocktail were greenlit, Seeking Alpha reported. Clinical data showed that Paxlovid was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to placebo in high-risk adults who were not hospitalized for treatment.
Russian War Hasn’t Hampered Supply Chain
India’s Bharat Biotech International said the Russian invasion of Ukraine had not impacted its supply chain, Reuters reported. The company said the active pharmaceutical ingredients in its Covaxin vaccine and critical raw materials are manufactured in India.