The COVID-19 pandemic shortened life expectancy around the globe last year, according to a new international study.
A team of researchers led by University of Oxford public health professor Nazur Islam examined changes to life expectancy in 37 upper-middle- and high-income countries, using the years between 2005 and 2019 as a benchmark, and compared the ages of the deceased to their life expectancies.
The study, published this week in the scientific journal BMJ, found that Russia had the highest drop in life expectancy, where men lost 2.33 years and women 2.14 years. In second place was the United States, with men losing 2.27 years and women 1.61 years, followed by Bulgaria with men losing 1.96 years and women 1.37 years.
A total of 31 nations saw declines in life expectancy. According to the researchers, these countries’ populations lost about 28 million additional years of life.
Six nations -- Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea and Taiwan -- were the only nations of those studied where life expectancy either increased or remained the same.
The researchers say most countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America were not included in the study due to a lack of data, meaning the true toll from the pandemic was likely even higher.
The pandemic has claimed more than 5 million lives since the first cases were detected in central China in late 2019, with the United States the world leader in COVID-19 deaths with 750,430, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Meanwhile, vaccinations of children between 5 and 11 years of age began in earnest across the United States Wednesday, just hours after Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, formally accepted the advice of the agency’s vaccine advisory panel that a low dosage of Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine was safe for that age group.
Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters Monday that the government had already begun shipping the doses to more than 20,000 doctors’ offices, pharmacies and various health clinics around the country to begin inoculating as many as 28 million children. Zients said the program should be “running at full strength” by next week.
In Beijing, more than 1 million people have applied to volunteer at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, according to state-run Global Times, as quoted by the Atlanta-based cable news network, CNN. Enthusiasm for the Games, which are slated to be held in February, is running high despite ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 cases across China, prompting authorities to impose a “zero-COVID” policy that includes widespread testing and strict lockdowns to blunt the spread of the virus.
Organizers of the Beijing Winter Olympics will hold the Games in a “COVID-safe bubble” in which athletes and other participants will be quarantined from local residents. In addition, only residents of mainland China will be allowed to attend the Games as spectators.