How Can Vaccines Be Used to Fight Outbreaks?
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Stopping a viral outbreak like COVID-19 takes more than luck, it takes public health tools. Vaccines are considered to be one of the best public health tools, which is why there is often a rush to develop good vaccines for newly discovered viruses, particularly those that have the potential to infect lots of people. Recent examples include COVID-19, Zika virus, and Ebola. If enough people are vaccinated, an effective vaccine can help stop outbreaks or even eradicate (completely get rid of) a viral disease. But how many people are "enough," and what determines if a vaccine is "effective"? Using SimPandemic, a free online tool for modeling infectious outbreaks, you can examine these and related questions.
Start by working your way through the Using Vaccines to Fight Outbreaks notebook at SimPandemic. By the time you come to the Sandbox section and start running your own simulations of outbreaks, you will see that there are many questions you can model and investigate. For example:
- Research what fraction of the population is willing to take a new COVID-19 vaccine. Given this information, how effective would a vaccine have to be in order to effectively fight the COVID-19 epidemic? How would the trajectory of an outbreak change if more people were vaccinated? What if fewer people were vaccinated?
- Vaccination rates vary from community to community and country to country. Research vaccination rates for a virus that interests you like measles, polio, or rubella. Are the current vaccination rates high enough to prevent an outbreak? If not, how high do they need to be? If they are, how low can they drop before the community is at risk of an outbreak?
- Vaccinating a population can be a huge undertaking and one where time is the enemy. It can take a lot of time and logistics to administer a large number of vaccine doses. It also takes time, often as much as two weeks, for a vaccine to induce immunity in individuals. If COVID-19, or another novel virus, is already in the community, how quickly would you need to vaccinate the population to stop an outbreak?
These are just a small sampling of the vaccine-related questions you can explore using SimPandemic. Give the tool a try and see what you can discover about how vaccines can be used to fight outbreaks.
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