• Accelerated vaccine rollout is imperative to mitigate highly transmissible COVID-19 variants

      Sah, Pratha; Vilches, Thomas N; Moghadas, Seyed M; Fitzpatrick, Meagan C; Singer, Burton H; Hotez, Peter J; Galvani, Alison P (Elsevier Inc., 2021-04-25)
      Background: More contagious variants of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged around the world, sparking concerns about impending surge in cases and severe outcomes. Despite the development of effective vaccines, rollout has been slow. We evaluated the impact of accelerated vaccine distribution on curbing the disease burden of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants. Methods: We used an agent-based model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and vaccination to simulate the spread of novel variants with S-Gene Target Failure (SGTF) in addition to the original strain. We incorporated age-specific risk and contact patterns and implemented a two-dose vaccination campaign in accord with CDC-recommended prioritization. As a base case, we projected hospitalizations and deaths at a daily vaccination rate of 1 million doses in the United States (US) and compared with accelerated campaigns in which daily doses were expanded to 1.5, 2, 2.5, or 3 million. Findings: We found that at a vaccination rate of 1 million doses per day, an emergent SGTF variant that is 20–70% more transmissible than the original variant would become dominant within 2 to 9 weeks, accounting for as much as 99% of cases at the outbreak peak. Our results show that accelerating vaccine delivery would substantially reduce severe health outcomes. For a SGTF with 30% higher transmissibility, increasing vaccine doses from 1 to 3 million per day would avert 152,048 (95% CrI: 134,772–168,696) hospitalizations and 48,448 (95% CrI: 42,042–54,285) deaths over 300 days. Accelerated vaccination would also prevent additional COVID-19 waves that would otherwise be fuelled by waning adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). Interpretation: We found that the current pace of vaccine rollout is insufficient to prevent the exacerbation of the pandemic that will be attributable to the novel, more contagious SARS-CoV-2 variants. Accelerating the vaccination rate should be a public health priority for averting the expected surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths that would be associated with widespread dissemination of the SGTF variants. Our results underscore the need to bolster the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, to rapidly expand vaccination priority groups and distribution sites. © 2021 The Authors
    • Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection: A systematic review and meta-analysis

      Sah, Pratha; Fitzpatrick, Meagan C; Zimmer, Charlotte F; Abdollahi, Elaheh; Juden-Kelly, Lyndon; Moghadas, Seyed M; Singer, Burton H; Galvani, Alison P (National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2021-08-10)
      Quantification of asymptomatic infections is fundamental for effective public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Discrepancies regarding the extent of asymptomaticity have arisen from inconsistent terminology as well as conflation of index and secondary cases which biases toward lower asymptomaticity. We searched PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and World Health Organization Global Research Database on COVID-19 between January 1, 2020 and April 2, 2021 to identify studies that reported silent infections at the time of testing, whether presymptomatic or asymptomatic. Index cases were removed to minimize representational bias that would result in overestimation of symptomaticity. By analyzing over 350 studies, we estimate that the percentage of infections that never developed clinical symptoms, and thus were truly asymptomatic, was 35.1% (95% CI: 30.7 to 39.9%). At the time of testing, 42.8% (95% prediction interval: 5.2 to 91.1%) of cases exhibited no symptoms, a group comprising both asymptomatic and presymptomatic infections. Asymptomaticity was significantly lower among the elderly, at 19.7% (95% CI: 12.7 to 29.4%) compared with children at 46.7% (95% CI: 32.0 to 62.0%). We also found that cases with comorbidities had significantly lower asymptomaticity compared to cases with no underlying medical conditions. Without proactive policies to detect asymptomatic infections, such as rapid contact tracing, prolonged efforts for pandemic control may be needed even in the presence of vaccination.
    • COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths averted under an accelerated vaccination program in northeastern and southern regions of the USA.

      Vilches, Thomas N; Sah, Pratha; Moghadas, Seyed M; Shoukat, Affan; Fitzpatrick, Meagan C; Hotez, Peter J; Schneider, Eric C; Galvani, Alison P (Elsevier, 2022-02)
      Background: The fourth wave of COVID-19 pandemic peaked in the US at 160,000 daily cases, concentrated primarily in southern states. As the Delta variant has continued to spread, we evaluated the impact of accelerated vaccination on reducing hospitalization and deaths across northeastern and southern regions of the US census divisions. Methods: We used an age-stratified agent-based model of COVID-19 to simulate outbreaks in all states within two U.S. regions. The model was calibrated using reported incidence in each state from October 1, 2020 to August 31, 2021, and parameterized with characteristics of the circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants and state-specific daily vaccination rate. We then projected the number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths that would be averted between September 2021 and the end of March 2022 if the states increased their daily vaccination rate by 20 or 50% compared to maintaining the status quo pace observed during August 2021. Findings: A 50% increase in daily vaccine doses administered to previously unvaccinated individuals is projected to prevent a total of 30,727 hospitalizations and 11,937 deaths in the two regions between September 2021 and the end of March 2022. Southern states were projected to have a higher weighted average number of hospitalizations averted (18.8) and lives saved (8.3) per 100,000 population, compared to the weighted average of hospitalizations (12.4) and deaths (2.7) averted in northeastern states. On a per capita basis, a 50% increase in daily vaccinations is expected to avert the most hospitalizations in Kentucky (56.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 averted with 95% CrI: 45.56 - 69.9) and prevent the most deaths in Mississippi, (22.1 deaths per 100,000 population prevented with 95% CrI: 18.0 - 26.9). Interpretation: Accelerating progress to population-level immunity by raising the daily pace of vaccination would prevent substantial hospitalizations and deaths in the US, even in those states that have passed a Delta-driven peak in infections. Funding: This study was supported by The Commonwealth Fund. SMM acknowledges the support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [OV4 - 170643, COVID-19 Rapid Research] and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Emerging Infectious Disease Modelling, MfPH grant. MCF acknowledges support from the National Institutes of Health (5 K01 AI141576).
    • Estimating COVID-19 Infections, Hospitalizations, and Deaths Following the US Vaccination Campaigns During the Pandemic.

      Vilches, Thomas N; Moghadas, Seyed M; Sah, Pratha; Fitzpatrick, Meagan C; Shoukat, Affan; Pandey, Abhishek; Galvani, Alison P (American Medical Association, 2022-01-04)
    • Evaluation of COVID-19 vaccination strategies with a delayed second dose

      Moghadas, Seyed M; Vilches, Thomas N; Zhang, Kevin; Nourbakhsh, Shokoofeh; Sah, Pratha; Fitzpatrick, Meagan C; Galvani, Alison P (Public Library of Science, 2021-04-21)
      Two of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines currently approved in the United States require 2 doses, administered 3 to 4 weeks apart. Constraints in vaccine supply and distribution capacity, together with a deadly wave of COVID-19 from November 2020 to January 2021 and the emergence of highly contagious Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants, sparked a policy debate on whether to vaccinate more individuals with the first dose of available vaccines and delay the second dose or to continue with the recommended 2-dose series as tested in clinical trials. We developed an agent-based model of COVID-19 transmission to compare the impact of these 2 vaccination strategies, while varying the temporal waning of vaccine efficacy following the first dose and the level of preexisting immunity in the population. Our results show that for Moderna vaccines, a delay of at least 9 weeks could maximize vaccination program effectiveness and avert at least an additional 17.3 (95% credible interval [CrI]: 7.8–29.7) infections, 0.69 (95% CrI: 0.52–0.97) hospitalizations, and 0.34 (95% CrI: 0.25–0.44) deaths per 10,000 population compared to the recommended 4-week interval between the 2 doses. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines also averted an additional 0.60 (95% CrI: 0.37–0.89) hospitalizations and 0.32 (95% CrI: 0.23–0.45) deaths per 10,000 population in a 9-week delayed second dose (DSD) strategy compared to the 3-week recommended schedule between doses. However, there was no clear advantage of delaying the second dose with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in reducing infections, unless the efficacy of the first dose did not wane over time. Our findings underscore the importance of quantifying the characteristics and durability of vaccine-induced protection after the first dose in order to determine the optimal time interval between the 2 doses.
    • The implications of silent transmission for the control of COVID-19 outbreaks

      Moghadas, Seyed M; Fitzpatrick, Meagan C; Sah, Pratha; Pandey, Abhishek; Shoukat, Affan; Singer, Burton H; Galvani, Alison P (National Academy of Sciences, 2020-07-28)
      Since the emergence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), unprecedented movement restrictions and social distancing measures have been implemented worldwide. The socioeconomic repercussions have fueled calls to lift these measures. In the absence of population-wide restrictions, isolation of infected individuals is key to curtailing transmission. However, the effectiveness of symptom-based isolation in preventing a resurgence depends on the extent of presymptomatic and asymptomatic transmission. We evaluate the contribution of presymptomatic and asymptomatic transmission based on recent individual-level data regarding infectiousness prior to symptom onset and the asymptomatic proportion among all infections. We found that the majority of incidences may be attributable to silent transmission from a combination of the presymptomatic stage and asymptomatic infections. Consequently, even if all symptomatic cases are isolated, a vast outbreak may nonetheless unfold. We further quantified the effect of isolating silent infections in addition to symptomatic cases, finding that over one-third of silent infections must be isolated to suppress a future outbreak below 1% of the population. Our results indicate that symptom-based isolation must be supplemented by rapid contact tracing and testing that identifies asymptomatic and presymptomatic cases, in order to safely lift current restrictions and minimize the risk of resurgence.
    • Universal healthcare as pandemic preparedness: The lives and costs that could have been saved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Galvani, Alison P; Parpia, Alyssa S; Pandey, Abhishek; Sah, Pratha; Colón, Kenneth; Friedman, Gerald; Campbell, Travis; Kahn, James G; Singer, Burton H; Fitzpatrick, Meagan C (National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2022-06-13)
      The fragmented and inefficient healthcare system in the United States leads to many preventable deaths and unnecessary costs every year. During a pandemic, the lives saved and economic benefits of a single-payer universal healthcare system relative to the status quo would be even greater. For Americans who are uninsured and underinsured, financial barriers to COVID-19 care delayed diagnosis and exacerbated transmission. Concurrently, deaths beyond COVID-19 accrued from the background rate of uninsurance. Universal healthcare would alleviate the mortality caused by the confluence of these factors. To evaluate the repercussions of incomplete insurance coverage in 2020, we calculated the elevated mortality attributable to the loss of employer-sponsored insurance and to background rates of uninsurance, summing with the increased COVID-19 mortality due to low insurance coverage. Incorporating the demography of the uninsured with age-specific COVID-19 and nonpandemic mortality, we estimated that a single-payer universal healthcare system would have saved about 212,000 lives in 2020 alone. We also calculated that US$105.6 billion of medical expenses associated with COVID-19 hospitalization could have been averted by a single-payer universal healthcare system over the course of the pandemic. These economic benefits are in addition to US$438 billion expected to be saved by single-payer universal healthcare during a nonpandemic year.