Does the US really have the highest number of Covid victims globally?

What does WHO say about Covid cases?

But a new World Health Organization (WHO) report shows that many other countries have seen more deaths in the past two years than the United States. So does the US really have the most Covid victims, and to what extent? There is no international standard for measuring deaths or their causes, and countries record deaths differently, making comparison difficult. But experts say one of the most accurate indicators is the number of additional deaths recorded in the country, more than expected on average in a year.   

Many countries publish excess mortality data, but some poorer countries do not or publish much less frequently. The WHO has published a report that calculates the number of excess deaths in each country for 2020 and 2021.    

Covid victims globally

This measure considers deaths not directly due to Covid, but due to the pandemic, for example, when people cannot access hospitals to receive the care they need. It also indicates poor record keeping in some regions. The report concludes that while the United States was not the country most affected by the measure globally, it remained in the top five in terms of total deaths.    

More than 930,000 additional deaths were recorded in the United States in 2020 and 2021, after India (4.7 million), Russia (1.1 million) and Indonesia (1 million), according to the WHO. The WHO figures are broadly consistent with the Economist’s 2022 statistics and other excess mortality studies. When adjusted for population, the United States dropped in the rankings with 140 excess deaths per 100,000 people. But it remains well above the global average of 96 per 100,000 people and is also one of the worst rates among more developed countries.  

Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist who worked on the WHO report, says: “In the United States, there are about 15% fewer excess deaths than official Covid deaths – this is mainly the result of some of the early problems that arose from missed caregiving. domestic deaths. “Overall, there is no shortage of deaths in the United States compared to India,” he adds. 

What about the official numbers of Covid deaths?  

The United States has the highest number of coronavirus deaths globally, more than 300,000 more than its closest country, Brazil. But the United States has a larger population than many other countries. If you look at the top 10 countries per capita, the United States lags behind Brazil and Peru in the number of reported Covid deaths. Overall, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the United States ranks 18th in the world in per capita deaths from Covid.   

“I think the short-term per capita mortality rate is a good indicator,” said Justin Lessler, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina. “America is not the tallest, but definitely the tallest.”

Experts say it is also essential to consider the average age of the country’s population. “We have to compare countries with a similar age structure because we know that Covid has a higher death rate among older people, so we have to compare apples to apples,” says Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan.    

Compared to Spain, the UK and France, and neighbouring Canada—developed countries with a population of the same age as the US—the US fared worse. “Many European countries, such as the UK, France and Spain, are comparable and have lower per capita death rates. It’s not day and night, but the US is on the higher end of the spectrum,” says Professor Lessler. 

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