Findings from a paper published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that 22,138 lives in Scotland were saved as a direct result of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.  

The paper, supported by Public Health Scotland (PHS), documents the estimated number of lives saved from COVID-19 vaccination programmes across 33 European countries, including Scotland, from December 2020 to March 2023.  

It highlights that during the study period, COVID-19 vaccines reduced deaths by 57% across the WHO European Region, saving over 1.4 million lives, with most of those saved being aged 60 years or older. 

The largest reduction in mortality was achieved in countries, such as Scotland, that implemented early vaccination programmes which covered large parts of the population and reached high vaccination coverage. 

The paper estimates that in Scotland around 70% of deaths have been averted among those over 25 years old as a direct result of the vaccination programme. This provides an updated figure from an earlier estimate that was published by the WHO in 2021

Discussing the study, co-author Dr Jim McMenamin, Head of Health Protection Infection Services at PHS, said: 

“This important research indicates the benefits of early implementation and high uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Scotland. Thanks to all those who contributed to the vaccination programme and our communities in Scotland, it is now estimated that over 22 thousand lives were saved.  

“This underscores the vital impact that vaccinations have played in our response to the pandemic. We are hugely grateful to all those who have played their part by taking up the offer of vaccination and to colleagues who continue to work tirelessly to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to those most at-risk.” 

Reflecting on the continued risk that COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses present, Dr Sam Ghebrehewet, Head of Vaccination and Immunisation at PHS, said: 

“Our latest data suggest that there is continued circulation of COVID-19 and flu in Scotland, with 700 people admitted to hospital in the first week of January alone.” 

“We know that vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself against the most likely circulating strains of these viruses and it’s not too late to get vaccinated. I strongly encourage those who have not yet received their winter vaccines for COVID-19 and flu to increase their protection by taking up the offer if eligible.”