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      Prioritizing allocation of COVID-19 vaccines based on social contacts increases vaccination effectiveness

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          Abstract

          We study allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to individuals based on the structural properties of their underlying social contact network. Even optimistic estimates suggest that most countries will likely take 6 to 24 months to vaccinate their citizens. These time estimates and the emergence of new viral strains urge us to find quick and effective ways to allocate the vaccines and contain the pandemic. While current approaches use combinations of age-based and occupation-based prioritizations, our strategy marks a departure from such largely aggregate vaccine allocation strategies. We propose a novel agent-based modeling approach motivated by recent advances in ( i) science of real-world networks that point to efficacy of certain vaccination strategies and ( ii) digital technologies that improve our ability to estimate some of these structural properties. Using a realistic representation of a social contact network for the Commonwealth of Virginia, combined with accurate surveillance data on spatio-temporal cases and currently accepted models of within- and between-host disease dynamics, we study how a limited number of vaccine doses can be strategically distributed to individuals to reduce the overall burden of the pandemic. We show that allocation of vaccines based on individuals’ degree (number of social contacts) and total social proximity time is significantly more effective than the currently used age-based allocation strategy in terms of number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Our results suggest that in just two months, by March 31, 2021, compared to age-based allocation, the proposed degree-based strategy can result in reducing an additional 56–110k infections, 3.2–5.4k hospitalizations, and 700–900 deaths just in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Extrapolating these results for the entire US, this strategy can lead to 3–6 million fewer infections, 181–306k fewer hospitalizations, and 51–62k fewer deaths compared to age-based allocation. The overall strategy is robust even: ( i) if the social contacts are not estimated correctly; ( ii) if the vaccine efficacy is lower than expected or only a single dose is given; ( iii) if there is a delay in vaccine production and deployment; and ( iv) whether or not non-pharmaceutical interventions continue as vaccines are deployed. For reasons of implementability, we have used degree, which is a simple structural measure and can be easily estimated using several methods, including the digital technology available today. These results are significant, especially for resource-poor countries, where vaccines are less available, have lower efficacy, and are more slowly distributed.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          medRxiv
          February 06 2021
          Article
          10.1101/2021.02.04.21251012
          © 2021

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