“With regard to the impact of vaccinations on mortality, we have not done specific studies yet, but […] during the last wave, between December and April, there was an average mortality of 50 to 100 deaths per million and now, at the peak of the current wave which is substantial in terms of the number of cases, mortality is less than 10 per million”, indicates the director of the ECDC Surveillance department, Bruno Ciancio, in an interview with Lusa agency.
At a time when the EU has already surpassed 250 million people fully vaccinated, the expert adds that "rough calculations indicate that, so far, vaccines have probably managed to prevent a few hundred thousand deaths".
“These are not exact calculations and we need to do a proper analysis that is not yet possible because vaccinations are still recent, […] but the general estimate will show that we have hundreds of thousands fewer deaths” in the EU and the European Economic Area, he points out .
Speaking about the current epidemiological situation in the region, Bruno Ciancio points out that "there has been an increase [in infections] in some countries, but this is not reflected in the number of deaths, as happened in other previous waves, which is the effect of the vaccine".
In concrete terms, the average incidence of infections in the EU stands at 200 cases per 100,000 population, "which has now been stable for three weeks", after consecutive increases, mainly due to the dominance of the Delta variant and the tourist season, according to the expert. .
Even so, “what is now very different from previous vacancies is that we have not witnessed a corresponding increase in mortality and serious diseases”, which was then a result of the inoculation campaign, he adds.
In a risk assessment released last June, ECDC estimated that the number of Covid-19 cases would rise sharply in the EU summer, not least due to the more transmissible Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, which in accounts released at the time would account for 90% of new infections in Europe by the end of August.
And that is exactly what is now verified, according to Bruno Ciancio, who reveals to Lusa that “the Delta variant is now equivalent to more than 96% of all sequenced samples [of new infections] in Europe”, which means that “ it is practically the only one in circulation” in the European space.
“The Delta mutation has replaced all the others, which are only circulating at a very low level and will probably disappear,” he adds.
Due to Delta's greater transferability, “this situation [of increased cases] was expected,” he admits.
What for Bruno Ciancio is not certain is how the pandemic will evolve in the EU in the coming months, as this “depends a lot on the level of vaccination coverage in the various countries and is a global problem”.
Noting that there are large discrepancies in vaccination between European countries, the official tells Lusa that "the main challenge for the EU now is to face the problem of people who hesitate to be vaccinated."
Bruno Ciancio thus advises communication efforts to increase the numbers of the vaccinated population.
ECDC's online tool for tracking vaccination in the EU, which is based on country notifications (and therefore may not be fully up-to-date) reveals that vaccination coverage is lower in countries like Bulgaria (20% of the population) fully vaccinated), Romania (32%) and Latvia (47%) and highest in Ireland (87%), Denmark (84%) and Portugal (83%).
Based in Sweden, ECDC's mission is to help European countries respond to disease outbreaks.