Maximising vaccination person-days

Nigel Cummings

In a paper by John A. Muckstadt, School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, and Cornell Institute for Disease and Disaster Preparedness, Cornell University, and his colleagues, some important insights were identified.

The scientists recognised when planning responses to pandemics, public policies should be based on appropriate scientific fields of study, and accurate application of nonpharmaceutical interventions should rest on knowledge of pathogens’ biology and pathogenesis; similarly, pharmacological responses to pandemics policies should be designed to adhere to supply chain management principles.

Their work had to consider that “Maximally protecting the U.S. from COVID-19 required a national vaccination strategy that prioritised both coverage and speed”. Additionally, any research done ‘now,’ they thought, should be as ‘future proof’ as possible. It should reflect good OR practices. So effective research solutions had to be focussed on the design and optimal operation of a vaccine allocation system based on fundamental principles that had a long pedigree in OR.

Lorry with Covid 19 Vaccine written on the side

They wanted to indicate what attributes a vaccine supply chain should have and how capacities for each element of the supply chain could impact, over time, inventory requirements and their allocations. They argued that it was more optimal to maximise the number of people per day than to set targets of how many should be vaccinated by a certain time. To achieve this, they also argued that minimising dispensing locations should maximise vaccination person-days.

Failing to achieve this would increase the number of unvaccinated person-days, each of which would give the COVID19 virus more room to cause suffering and to mutate potentially.

Their work had to be capable of “scaling up” everywhere. The best way to achieve this was to maximise vaccinated person days in any system with limited supply and uncertain demand and design and open vaccination centres that were as large as realistically feasible given local conditions.

The recommendations based on insights gathered during their research would also have to ensure that reaching vaccine hesitant and historically underserved communities could require local vaccine distribution points, like churches and pharmacies, but with the same logic applied to them.

The research results, experimentation, and insights found demonstrated that performance measures, especially missed vaccination person-days, vary based on the number and size of dispensing locations. The effect of box size on performance measures was also worth noting from the research, as was, having fewer and larger vaccination dispensing locations to provide the maximum benefit to society.

You can read a paper on this research as a PDF document by accessing the following link: