News Release

Global Covid Mortality Rates Obscure Actual Loss of Life


In a feature article for Pandem-ic, an online publication that tracks global pandemic inequality, Philip Schellekens writes that “public commentary on the mortality burden of the pandemic has excessively focused on ‘mortality rates,’” which “miss one important point: a life lost is a life lost, regardless of borders.” The numbers make a strong case for vaccine equity. 

    Schellekens is a senior economic advisor at the World Bank Group. 

Rather than focus on rates of death, Schellekens uses this chart to show how the absolute number of global excess deaths––20 million––is distributed geographically. We can see that developing countries actually account for “the bulk of global mortality”: 50 percent of global excess mortality is concentrated in lower-middle-income countries. 

Schellekens argues that reported Covid-19 mortality rates “convey the wrong impression that the pandemic has been mild in developing countries.” But further examination leads to “exactly the opposite conclusion: even on a relative basis, developing countries have suffered a more intense pandemic.” Further, Schellekens writes, “we cannot lump the developing world into one broad category and ignore the differences within.”

Schellekens elaborates in “The demographics of excess mortality.”