Researchers argue that Artificial Intelligence can help decide who gets a Covid-19 vaccine first

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could help better determine who should receive the Covid-19 vaccine first, according to researchers at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

Experts from the Institute of AI and RiSE (Research in Societal Enhancement) group at DMU say that probability modelling (i.e. determining how likely something is) can effectively inform AI systems to generate priority lists, thus supporting experts in speeding-up and simplifying decision making.

“The availability of approved vaccines has been lauded by many as a ‘game-changer’ in the ongoing, global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and inevitably we have now found ourselves in the position of prioritising who gets the vaccine first, given that the current demand far outweighs current supply,” explained Dr Raymond Moodley, a visiting researcher at DMU’s Institute of AI.

The UK has been a leader in the vaccine roll-out, having been the first to approve and use both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines.

Decisions regarding vaccine prioritisation were left to the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) who are generally tasked with providing the government with guidance on immunisation.

“Generating these prioritisation groups has been a complex task requiring substantial time and effort by various experts including clinicians, mathematicians and data analysts, as well as government policy advisors. But we think it is possible to achieve a similar outcome using a simplified approach,” continued Dr Moodley.

“Having a simplified approach not only saves time and effort, but usually makes these approaches more universal, so they would be applicable to other scenarios beyond Covid-19. Most importantly, a simplified approach makes it more accessible to countries and organisations that do not have access to the expertise and data we have in the UK.”

Dr Moodley, along with his colleagues Professor Francisco Chiclana, Dr Fabio Caraffini, and Dr Mario Gongora, has extensive experience in developing AI models that identify patterns using real-time data and makes predictions and recommendations.