skip to main content


Title: Effective Social Network-Based Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines
ABSTRACT We study allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to individuals based on the structural properties of their underlying social contact network. Using a realistic representation of a social contact network for the Commonwealth of Virginia, 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 individualsโ€™ degree (number of social contacts) and total social proximity time is significantly more effective than the usually used age-based allocation strategy in reducing the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The overall strategy is robust even: (๐‘–) if the social contacts are not estimated correctly; (๐‘–๐‘–) if the vaccine efficacy is lower than expected or only a single dose is given; (๐‘–๐‘–๐‘–) if there is a delay in vaccine production and deployment; and (๐‘–๐‘ฃ) 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.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1633028 1916805 1918656 2028004 2027541
NSF-PAR ID:
10403978
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the KDD Health Day (2022)
Page Range / eLocation ID:
4675 to 4683
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    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 signi ficantly 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 signi ficant, especially for resource-poor countries, where vaccines are less available, have lower efficacy, and are more slowly distributed. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    Background: COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and made available. While questions of vaccine allocation strategies have received significant attention, important questions remain regarding the potential impact of the vaccine given uncertainties regarding efficacy against transmission, availability, timing, and durability. Methods: We adapted a susceptible-exposed-infectious-recovered (SEIR) model to examine the potential impact on hospitalization and mortality assuming increasing rates of vaccine efficacy, coverage, and administration. We also evaluated the uncertainty of the vaccine to prevent infectiousness as well as the impact on outcomes based on the timing of distribution and the potential effects of waning immunity. Findings: Increased vaccine efficacy against disease reduces hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19; however, the relative benefit of transmission blocking varied depending on the timing of vaccine distribution. Early in an outbreak, a vaccine that reduces transmission will be relatively more effective than one introduced later in the outbreak. In addition, earlier and accelerated implementation of a less effective vaccine is more impactful than later implementation of a more effective vaccine. These findings are magnified when considering the durability of the vaccine. Vaccination in the spring will be less impactful when immunity is less durable. Interpretation: Policy choices regarding non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as social distancing and face mask use, will need to remain in place longer if the vaccine is less effective at reducing transmission or distributed slower. In addition, the stage of the local outbreak greatly impacts the overall effectiveness of the vaccine in a region and should be considered when allocating vaccines. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract Currently, several western countries have more than half of their population fully vaccinated against COVID-19. At the same time, some of them are experiencing a fourth or even a fifth wave of cases, most of them concentrated in sectors of the populations whose vaccination coverage is lower than the average. So, the initial scenario of vaccine prioritization has given way to a new one where achieving herd immunity is the primary concern. Using an age-structured vaccination model with waning immunity, we show that, under a limited supply of vaccines, a vaccination strategy based on minimizing the basic reproduction number allows for the deployment of a number of vaccine doses lower than the one required for maximizing the vaccination coverage. Such minimization is achieved by giving greater protection to those age groups that, for a given social contact pattern, have smaller fractions of susceptible individuals at the endemic equilibrium without vaccination, that is, to those groups that are more vulnerable to infection. 
    more » « less
  4. Wardman, Jamie (Ed.)
    Currently, one of the most pressing public health challenges is encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Due to limited supplies, some people have had to wait for the COVID-19 vaccine. Consumer research has suggested that people who are overlooked in initial distribution of desired goods may no longer be interested. Here, we therefore examined peopleโ€™s preferences for proposed vaccine allocation strategies, as well as their anticipated responses to being overlooked. After health-care workers, most participants preferred prioritizing vaccines for high-risk individuals living in group-settings (49%) or with families (29%). We also found evidence of reluctance if passed over. After random assignment to vaccine allocation strategies that would initially overlook them, 37% of participants indicated that they would refuse the vaccine. The refusal rate rose to 42% when the vaccine allocation strategy prioritized people in areas with more COVID-19 โ€“ policies that were implemented in many areas. Even among participants who did not self-identify as vaccine hesitant, 22% said they would not want the vaccine in that case. Logistic regressions confirmed that vaccine refusal would be largest if vaccine allocation strategies targeted people who live in areas with more COVID-19 infections. In sum, once people are overlooked by vaccine allocation, they may no longer want to get vaccinated, even if they were not originally vaccine hesitant. Vaccine allocation strategies that prioritize high-infection areas and high-risk individuals in group-settings may enhance these concerns. 
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Background When three SARS-CoV-2 vaccines came to market in Europe and North America in the winter of 2020โ€“2021, distribution networks were in a race against a major epidemiological wave of SARS-CoV-2 that began in autumn 2020. Rapid and optimized vaccine allocation was critical during this time. With 95% efficacy reported for two of the vaccines, near-term public health needs likely require that distribution is prioritized to the elderly, health care workers, teachers, essential workers, and individuals with comorbidities putting them at risk of severe clinical progression. Methods We evaluate various age-based vaccine distributions using a validated mathematical model based on current epidemic trends in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. We allow for varying waning efficacy of vaccine-induced immunity, as this has not yet been measured. We account for the fact that known COVID-positive cases may not have been included in the first round of vaccination. And, we account for age-specific immune patterns in both states at the time of the start of the vaccination program. Our analysis assumes that health systems during winter 2020โ€“2021 had equal staffing and capacity to previous phases of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic; we do not consider the effects of understaffed hospitals or unvaccinated medical staff. Results We find that allocating a substantial proportion (>75 % ) of vaccine supply to individuals over the age of 70 is optimal in terms of reducing total cumulative deaths through mid-2021. This result is robust to different profiles of waning vaccine efficacy and several different assumptions on age mixing during and after lockdown periods. As we do not explicitly model other high-mortality groups, our results on vaccine allocation apply to all groups at high risk of mortality if infected. A median of 327 to 340 deaths can be avoided in Rhode Island (3444 to 3647 in Massachusetts) by optimizing vaccine allocation and vaccinating the elderly first. The vaccination campaigns are expected to save a median of 639 to 664 lives in Rhode Island and 6278 to 6618 lives in Massachusetts in the first half of 2021 when compared to a scenario with no vaccine. A policy of vaccinating only seronegative individuals avoids redundancy in vaccine use on individuals that may already be immune, and would result in 0.5% to 1% reductions in cumulative hospitalizations and deaths by mid-2021. Conclusions Assuming high vaccination coverage (>28 % ) and no major changes in distancing, masking, gathering size, hygiene guidelines, and virus transmissibility between 1 January 2021 and 1 July 2021 a combination of vaccination and population immunity may lead to low or near-zero transmission levels by the second quarter of 2021. 
    more » « less