COVID Vaccines - "Follow the Science" Should Include Math
Mathematical Models Show How To Save the Most Lives and Years of Life
After all, says Banzhaf, mathematics is known as the "Queen of Sciences," and it clearly makes sense to use mathematical modeling to help answer a vexing question: if doses of the COVID vaccine are scarce, which group should get it first - the people most likely to spread the disease who tend to be young and healthy, or people who are most likely to die from it who are mostly old and frail.
This is a question which can be logically analyzed with mathematical models, says Banzhaf, noting that several experts - in Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Public Health, Communicable Disease Dynamics, and Ecology and Evolution - have put their heads and combined expertise together to do exactly that.
Their study concludes that "we found that across countries those aged 60 and older should be prioritized to minimize deaths, assuming a return to high contact rates and pre-pandemic behavior during or after vaccine rollout."
As their paper put it, "of the five strategies, direct vaccination of adults over 60 years (60+) always reduced mortality and YLL [years of life lost] more than the alternative strategies when transmission was high."
It is also important to note, says Banzhaf, that the experts took into account not only the number of lives saved, but also the number of years of expected life to be saved.
This, of course, gives much greater weight to protecting the lives of younger adults who will generally have a life expectancy of more than 40 years, than to those 60 and older whose life expectancy is much shorter.
Mathematics, he notes, cannot be used to calculate what is "fair" or "best," but it can provide us with hard data which can help to make these life-and-death decisions.