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Estimating Global and Country-Specific Excess Mortality by Age and Sex During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jon Wakefield

Jon Wakefield

Estimating the true mortality burden of COVID-19 for every country in the world by age and sex is a difficult, but crucial, public health endeavor. Attributing deaths, direct or indirect, to COVID-19 is problematic.  A more attainable target is the "excess deaths'', the number of deaths in a particular period, relative to that expected during "normal times'', and we develop a model for this endeavor. The excess mortality requires two numbers, the total deaths and the expected deaths, but the former is unavailable for many countries, and so modeling is required for such countries. The expected deaths are based on historic data and we develop a model for producing estimates of these deaths for all countries. We allow for uncertainty in the modeled expected numbers when calculating the excess. The methods we describe  were used to produce the World Health Organization (WHO) excess death estimates. Initial estimates were aggregated across age and sex, but we will outline progress towards producing disaggregated estimates.

This is joint work with Victoria Knutson, in collaboration with William Msemburi, Serge Aleshin-Guendel, Haidong Wang, Nelly Biondi, Ariel Karlinsky and Jonas Schoeley.