Excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic in Iran
Ahmadi Gohari M., Chegeni M., Haghdoost AA., Mirzaee F., White L., Kostoulas P., Mirzazadeh A., Karamouzian M., Jahani Y., Sharifi H.
Background: The actual number of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to be higher than the reported deaths. We aimed to estimate the number of deaths in Iran during the COVID-19 pandemic from December 22, 2019 to March 20, 2022. Methods: We compared the number of age- and sex-specific deaths reported by Iran’s Bureau of Vital Statistics with the predicted deaths estimated using an improved Lee-Carter model. We estimated the number of all-cause excess deaths in three scenarios, including the baseline scenario (without any undercounting of deaths) and 4% and 8% undercounting of all-cause deaths. Results: We estimated 282,378 (95% confidence intervals [CI]: 225,439; 341,951) excess deaths in the baseline model. This number was 303,148 (95% CI: 246,417; 357,823) and 308,486 (95% CI: 250,607; 364,417) in the 4% and 8% scenarios, respectively. During the same period, Iran reported 139,610 deaths as being directly related to COVID-19. The ratio of reported COVID-19 deaths to total excess deaths ranged from 45.2% to 49.4% in the various scenarios. Most excess deaths occurred in the baseline scenario in males (157,552 [95% CI: 125,142; 191,265]) and those aged ≥75 years (102,369 [95% CI: 93,894; 111,188]). Conclusions: The reported number of COVID-19 deaths was less than half of Iran’s estimated number of excess deaths. The results of this study will be helpful for health policymakers’ planning, and call for strengthening the timeliness and accuracy of Iran’s death registration systems, planning for more accurate monitoring of epidemics, and planning to provide support services for survivors’ families.