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  1. Abstract Background Ensemble modeling aims to boost the forecasting performance by systematically integrating the predictive accuracy across individual models. Here we introduce a simple-yet-powerful ensemble methodology for forecasting the trajectory of dynamic growth processes that are defined by a system of non-linear differential equations with applications to infectious disease spread. Methods We propose and assess the performance of two ensemble modeling schemes with different parametric bootstrapping procedures for trajectory forecasting and uncertainty quantification. Specifically, we conduct sequential probabilistic forecasts to evaluate their forecasting performance using simple dynamical growth models with good track records including the Richards model, the generalized-logistic growth model, and the Gompertz model. We first test and verify the functionality of the method using simulated data from phenomenological models and a mechanistic transmission model. Next, the performance of the method is demonstrated using a diversity of epidemic datasets including scenario outbreak data of the Ebola Forecasting Challenge and real-world epidemic data outbreaks of including influenza, plague, Zika, and COVID-19. Results We found that the ensemble method that randomly selects a model from the set of individual models for each time point of the trajectory of the epidemic frequently outcompeted the individual models as well as an alternative ensemblemore »method based on the weighted combination of the individual models and yields broader and more realistic uncertainty bounds for the trajectory envelope, achieving not only better coverage rate of the 95% prediction interval but also improved mean interval scores across a diversity of epidemic datasets. Conclusion Our new methodology for ensemble forecasting outcompete component models and an alternative ensemble model that differ in how the variance is evaluated for the generation of the prediction intervals of the forecasts.« less
  2. COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized in multiple countries, and more are under rapid development. Careful design of a vaccine prioritization strategy across sociodemographic groups is a crucial public policy challenge given that 1) vaccine supply will be constrained for the first several months of the vaccination campaign, 2) there are stark differences in transmission and severity of impacts from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) across groups, and 3) SARS-CoV-2 differs markedly from previous pandemic viruses. We assess the optimal allocation of a limited vaccine supply in the United States across groups differentiated by age and essential worker status, which constrains opportunities for social distancing. We model transmission dynamics using a compartmental model parameterized to capture current understanding of the epidemiological characteristics of COVID-19, including key sources of group heterogeneity (susceptibility, severity, and contact rates). We investigate three alternative policy objectives (minimizing infections, years of life lost, or deaths) and model a dynamic strategy that evolves with the population epidemiological status. We find that this temporal flexibility contributes substantially to public health goals. Older essential workers are typically targeted first. However, depending on the objective, younger essential workers are prioritized to control spread or seniors to directly control mortality.more »When the objective is minimizing deaths, relative to an untargeted approach, prioritization averts deaths on a range between 20,000 (when nonpharmaceutical interventions are strong) and 300,000 (when these interventions are weak). We illustrate how optimal prioritization is sensitive to several factors, most notably, vaccine effectiveness and supply, rate of transmission, and the magnitude of initial infections.« less