BATCH 2 TEAM 19 Health and Wellness
The novel coronavirus disease 2019, commonly known as COVID-19, has brought the world to a halt. As the pandemic spreads across borders and continents, there is a global race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. Once a vaccine is ready for public use, vaccine science informs us that we must achieve "herd immunity." The concept of "herd immunity" calls for the immunization of a significant portion of the population so that individually vaccinated persons "serve as a protective barrier" against the disease within the community. For example, in the smallpox worldwide eradication campaign, each country instituted a mass vaccination program with the goal of immunizing at least eighty percent of its total population.
In an ideal world, we would vaccinate the estimated 7.8 billion people on earth simultaneously. However, we know that is impossible. We realize that reality dictates that some groups of people and some geographic regions will need to be vaccinated before others (e.g., out of necessity with respect to frontline workers, patients with higher risk of serious illness, and underprivileged communities where adequate advanced medical care is scarce). For these reasons, we propose VACCESS as a data-driven web application that supports vaccine distribution efforts of manufacturers, governments, and international organizations, by using a proprietary combination of historic and real-time population health and demographic data to identify geographical clusters at risk.
Our team lead Sara Mahmoud-Davis is a practicing attorney and formed the VACCESS team inspired by her health law specialty and her 2010 published research on the need for emergency preparedness in a pandemic, which proposed a mass vaccination plan (see: Balancing Public Health and Individual Choice: A Proposal for a Federal Emergency Vaccination Law, 20 Health Matrix 219 (2010) Available at: https://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/healthmatrix/vol20/iss1/10).
Our VACCESS team is composed of 8 members from around the globe, Canada, Germany, India, and the USA. We are each motivated by a desire to contribute to the efforts to combat COVID-19 and believe in VACCESS as a necessary tool in the fight. We possess a diverse set of skills: Hamza/USA won a code-breaking challenge and is excited to expand his novice developer skills. Isabel/Canada is a previous hackathon winner and brings analytic, product manager, market and research expertise. Navya/Germany has corporate and startup experience as a software developer and is fascinated with digitalizing the healthcare domain to solve many problems. Nicole/USA is an entrepreneur, educator and foresight specialist with a certification in Futures Thinking. Sara/USA is a skilled advocate, analyst, negotiator, and regulatory and compliance law specialist. Steve/USA has startup experience, loves hackathon challenges, and is a full stack web development guru. Suryanshu/India is eager to improve his novice developer skills. Yashaswini/Germany is a developer with skills in signal processing and embedded software development for wireless communication systems. We are #strongertogether!
Key Benefits and Impact
The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is working on a plan to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines - but the plan, implementation and enforcement are unclear. VACCESS helps the WHO, governments, states, and vaccine manufacturers manage the vaccine supply and deliver them in an equitable manner, and takes into account various health and social risk factors based on demographic distribution (such as age, ethnicity) and preparedness of providers (such as number of available hospital beds in the intensive care unit).
VACCESS helps to eliminate supply challenges such as unfair competition between U.S. states, and even countries, from vying for access to the vaccine supply (i.e., hoping to avoid the current predicament we face in the USA sourcing critical supplies of personal protective equipment and ventilators). VACCESS will help ensure the vaccine supply is more universally available.
VACCESS offers a predictive tool to help anticipate populations at high risk, which is critical to dealing with the anticipated 2nd, 3rd, and maybe even 4th wave of the COVID-19 crisis.
VACCESS will help healthcare systems and industry reap cost-savings by contributing to a more efficient and effective supply chain.
Uniquely, in the USA, each of the 50 states control their own vaccination efforts (despite a national vaccination program) and we know from the 2009 H1N1 response that states implemented different distribution methods and set different criteria and priorities for who would be first to receive the vaccine. Public health authorities working in tandem with vaccine manufacturers will benefit greatly from VACCESS’s ability to identify current hot spots and direct the supply to those who need it most.
What it does
Our 8-person international team crafted our initial idea into a clear vision for VACCESS and created a blend of web applications and microservices to achieve a Minimum Value Product (MVP) in under 48 hours. Our MVP application reads live data informed by our proprietary algorithm that uses a geographic heat map, sorted lists and additional components to display guided analytics to help manufacturers and public health authorities make better vaccine distribution decisions. As an example, our working prototype demonstrates how providers in various counties throughout the state of California can use the application to prioritize vaccine distribution efforts to reach critical populations. Since primary care doctors are on the front lines in this war, we prioritized vaccine distribution to them first. Given community spread it is our vision that VACCESS will prioritize the most vulnerable segment of the population at any given moment—VACCESS saves lives.
The long-term success of our application depends on considering a variety of important risk factors currently found within a diverse, scattered set of governmental and privately compiled resources. We discovered that in order to fully comprehend the available data sets and use them to inform our proprietary algorithm, we will need to acquire more time and resources and at least one data scientist team member with relevant expertise.
After meeting with key stakeholders involved with the production and supply of vaccines, we will seek to make critical improvements to our data sets, algorithms and available applications within a 90 day, 180 day and annual period. If we can complete important updates within this time frame, it's fair to say this application will be able to save lives by informing or even predicting the correct distribution strategies for vaccines.