February 24, 2021
New research by Simon Fraser University modelling experts is examining the province’s age-related vaccine roll-out plan in light of new data on vaccine performance, and suggesting that a strategy prioritizing essential workers is more effective.
In a new pre-print study involving SFU professors Caroline Colijn and Paul Tupper, and led by mathematics PhD student Nicola Mulberry, researchers conclude that strategies that target essential workers earlier not only consistently outperform those that do not but also provide “a significant level of indirect protection” for older adults.
The research is based on a series of modelling simulations using age and essential worker data, across five age-related vaccination scenarios. They compared scenarios in which essential workers – described as those who have to have a high number of contacts outside the home as part of their employment – are vaccinated sooner in the program: after those aged 80+, and followed by either the rest of the age-based rollout, or variations (for example all 20- to 79-year-olds).
Their modelling finds that vaccinating B.C.’s essential workers sooner, rather than an oldest-first strategy, would prevent more than 200,000 infections and more than 600 deaths, while saving over $500 million in net monetary benefit.
The researchers also note that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted essential workers, who often have lower incomes and no option to work from home. “Our findings suggest that prioritizing them for vaccination not only would help to reduce this substantial disparity, but it does not even come at the cost of increased adverse outcomes in others; rather, it is better for everyone.”