McGail AM, Feld SL, Schneider JA. You are only as safe as your riskiest contact: Effective COVID-19 vaccine distribution using local network information. Prev Med Rep. 2022 Jun;27:101787. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.101787
Date of this Version
Targeted vaccination, COVID-19, Friendship paradox, Network epidemiology
When vaccines are limited, prior research has suggested it is most protective to distribute vaccines to the most central individuals – those who are most likely to spread the disease. But surveying the population’s social network is a costly and time-consuming endeavour, often not completed before vaccination must begin. This paper validates a local targeting method for distributing vaccines. That is, ask randomly chosen individuals to nominate for vaccination the person they are in contact with who has the most disease-spreading contacts. Even better, ask that person to nominate the next person for vaccination, and so on. To validate this approach, we simulate the spread of COVID-19 along empirical contact networks collected in two high schools, in the United States and France, pre-COVID. These weighted networks are built by recording whenever students are in close spatial proximity and facing one another. We show here that nomination of most popular contacts performs significantly better than random vaccination, and on par with strategies which assume a full survey of the population. These results are robust over a range of realistic disease-spread parameters, as well as a larger synthetic contact network of 3000 individuals.