Covid 19 pandemic was earlier thought to have caused more deaths and infection in rich countries than in poor countries. But this has been debated now with a new study claiming that the risk of dying from the disease in the early times was roughly twice as high for people living in lower-income countries as for those in rich nations.
Epidemiologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz and his colleagues analysed infection and mortality data gathered from dozens of studies in 25 low- and middle-income countries before vaccines against the coronavirus were rolled out in those regions. Between April 2020 and February 2021, they collected blood samples from people in various age groups and looked for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.
Older individuals – who are most vulnerable to the disease – were less likely to have been infected than young people in rich countries. However, the authors found that in most lower-income countries, the percentage of adults aged 60 and older who had antibodies against the coronavirus was similar to that of young people. This is probably because many people in these countries live in multigenerational households, which makes isolating from an infected person difficult, says Meyerowitz-Katz. Several people in these places did not have the opportunity to work from home, he added.
To calculate a person’s risk of dying, the team went through countries’ infection fatality rates, the portion of infected people who die from the disease, including those who didn’t get tested or show symptoms. The average infection fatality rate of 20-year-olds in low-income countries was nearly three times that in rich nations, and 60-year-olds had almost double the risk of dying compared with that in wealthy countries. The stark difference in risk was probably because people in low-income countries had less access to good-quality health care, says Meyerowitz-Katz.
Meanwhile, co-author Daniel Herrera-Esposito, a neurobiologist at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, points out that the study highlighted how high-income nations failed to assist lower income countries properly during the pandemic.