Recently, Aleksandr Shishkin, a Ph.D. student, successfully published a manuscript under the direct supervision of Dr. Alexander Kirpich. The manuscript focuses on excess mortality in Ukraine during the COVID-19 pandemic. This publication marks Aleksandr's debut as a lead author, and it presents a comprehensive analysis of all-cause and cause-specific mortality in Ukraine throughout 2020 and 2021.
The study retrospectively investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ukraine by analyzing excess mortality measures from 2020 to 2021. The researchers examined both all-cause and cause-specific mortality scores before and during the epidemic to understand its effects on the Ukrainian population. To quantify the excess mortality, they employed parametric and nonparametric modeling techniques, using historical data to predict expected mortality counts during the pandemic. These predicted counts were then compared with the actual reported counts to determine the extent of the excess.
Comparisons were made using standardized mortality P-score metrics, including comparisons with neighboring countries. The analysis identified three distinct waves of excess all-cause mortality in Ukraine, occurring in December 2020, April 2021, and November 2021. These waves exhibited increasing levels of excess mortality, with rates exceeding the expected mortality by 32%, 43%, and 83% respectively. Importantly, the peaks in all-cause mortality coincided with three waves of lab-confirmed COVID-19 deaths, indicating a correlation between the two.
During these peak months, lab-confirmed COVID-19 mortality accounted for 9% to 24% of the all-cause mortality. Comparisons with neighboring countries revealed similar mortality trends over time, particularly in areas where vaccination coverage was comparable to Ukraine.
Regarding cause-specific mortality, the study observed excess deaths in categories related to pneumonia and circulatory system diseases. These categories experienced peaks in mortality at the same time as all-cause and lab-confirmed COVID-19 deaths, aligning with expectations. Pneumonia and circulatory system diseases constituted the majority of cases during these peak periods.
In summary, the study provides valuable insights into the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ukraine. The analysis of excess mortality demonstrates three distinct waves of increased mortality, with COVID-19-related deaths playing a significant role. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the pandemic's impact on the Ukrainian population and highlight similarities to neighboring countries experiencing similar vaccination coverage.
The manuscript reference is provided below, and it is freely accessible online, enabling the public to access its content at no cost.
Shishkin A, Lhewa P, Yang C, Gankin Y, Chowell G, Norris M, Skums P, Kirpich A. Excess mortality in Ukraine during the course of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020–2021. Scientific Reports. 2023 Apr 27;13(1):6917. PMID: 37106001 PMCID: PMC10139669 DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-33113-2