University of Waterloo research considers who should get COVID-19 vaccine first

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed a new model which they say will aid in determining which segment of the population should get vaccinated for COVID-19 in an effort to prevent the most deaths due to the virus.

“When a vaccine becomes available many people will want to be vaccinated at first, and there might be supply issues, so policymakers will have to prioritize which ages should get it first,” said Waterloo professor Chris Bauch, who co-authored the study with professor Madhur Anand as well as PhD candidate Peter Jentsch.

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Results of their study show that if the vaccine is ready early next year, it should be made available to those above the age of 60 due to their high mortality rate.

But if the vaccine were to be developed at a later date, such as next summer, then the study recommends alternate options that are more focused on disrupting transmission of the virus.

“Under those conditions, the best vaccination strategy for a specific region depends on when the vaccine becomes available, the number of people in a population who have contracted COVID-19 and are now immune, and the social reaction to the virus, such as the wearing of a mask and social distancing,” Bauch said.

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Aside from those over 60, the study also considered three other groups for initial immunization including: those 20 years of age and younger first; everybody irrespective of their age; targeting the sector of the population responsible for the most contacts.

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The school says the model “can also be adjusted for information from any province or country to decide the vaccination strategy that would prevent the most COVID-19 deaths in that population.”

In one instance, the researchers adjusted their model to consider adherence to mask-wearing or social distancing. The model concluded that in both cases it would be more effective to immunize with one of the three strategies which did not involve those over 60 regardless of when a vaccine became available.

The university says the research is still in need of peer review and it is only being released to help inform Canada’s COVID-19 response.

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