Based on serological studies, household surveys, official data from state-level civic bodies, and international estimates, the Washington-based Center for Global Development outlined in a report released Tuesday three death estimates in India, all of which pointed to multiples of the official 400,000 count.
Even a moderate estimate outlined in the study, based extrapolation of state-level civic registration from seven states, suggested 3.4 million excess deaths.
In a second calculation, applying international estimates of age-specific infection fatality rates (IFR) to Indian seroprevalence data implied a higher toll of around 4 million.
A third calculation in the report, based on analysis of the Consumer Pyramid Household Survey, a longitudinal panel of over 800,000 individuals across all states, yielded an estimate of 4.9 million excess deaths.
Acknowledging that estimating Covid-deaths with statistical confidence may prove elusive, the report however maintained that the toll “is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count” and “millions rather than hundreds of thousands, may have died.”
“Understanding and engaging with the data-based estimates is necessary because in this horrific tragedy the counting—and the attendant accountability—will count for now but also the future,” the report, authored by Abhishek Anand, Justin Sandefur and Arvind Subramanian, said. Arvind Subramanian is former Chief Economic Advisor to the Indian government.
The report said India’s inability to grasp the “scale of the tragedy in real time” during its first wave from March 2020 to February 2021 may have caused “the collective complacency that led to the horrors of the second wave.”
It said the first wave “was also more lethal than is widely believed” and that about 2 million people may have died in the first wave alone.
The latest study of fatalities in India came even as the ‘Delta’ variant is shaking up many western countries.
Covid cases in the US, mostly from the Delta variant and mostly among the unvaccinated, has risen to 32,000 a day over the past week – a 66% increase over the previous seven days.
Amid dogged resistance to the vaccine in the most conservative parts of the country, the CDC has said than 99% of Covid-19 deaths and 97% of hospitalizations are among people who have not been vaccinated.