More people dying than normal but fewer excess deaths

More people dying than normal but fewer excess deaths
Credit: Belga

More people died this autumn than in a normal year but excess mortality has not been as high as in 2020 when covid posed a greater threat to Europe.

During this summer and until October, the average daily death rate remained similar to those of the decade (2009-2019). This means that, were it not for the present spike in cases and deaths, this year there would have had similar death rates to non-covid years, according to the mortality statistics published by Statbel on Tuesday.

However, the death rate started to increase as the fourth wave took off in Belgium. In October 2021, an average of around 300 people died; by November, this figure was rising to more than 360 on some days.

This increase in the overall death rate coincides with the rising deaths registered by Sciensano, which started to climb around mid-November. The last two weeks of that month saw between 30 and 50 people die per day as a result of an infection.

The number of deaths (all causes) in Belgium in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years. Credit: Statbel


The rise in Covid-19 deaths from the start of October until the end of November 2021. Credit: Sciensano

This highlights that once again the excess mortality in Belgium is almost exclusively a result of the coronavirus – as was the case in 2020, when the red line rose sharply in April and November, the first and second waves.

The number of Covid-19 deaths, and as a result the overall mortality rate in Belgium, was much lower this year than in 2020 when the vaccine roll-out had not yet begun.

Vaccination against death

Last November had comparable infection rates to November 2021 but saw between 200 and 300 people dying each day from Covid-19. This year, this figure peaked at around 50 despite there being fewer measures in place. This owes almost entirely to the fact that 85% of the adult population was fully vaccinated at this point in 2021.

“We only have the vaccination to thank for all of this. This autumn’s virus circulation was unprecedented in Flanders and yet the number of deaths has remained relatively limited. Those who have been vaccinated are eight times less likely to die from the virus,” virologist Steven Van Gucht told VRT News.

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According to a US study, fully vaccinated people are even up to 11 times less likely to die as a result of an infection with the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Since the start of December, the Covid-19 death rates have once again declined slightly. At the moment, mostly older, vaccinated people with underlying health conditions and younger, unvaccinated people are dying as a result of coronavirus infections.

What the figures will look like next year remains uncertain, mainly due to the emergence of the Omicron variant, of which it is not yet known whether it will cause more fatalities in infected people.

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