- First batches of COVID-19 vaccines are reaching hospitals in the US.
- One hospital used algorithms to choose who should get the vaccine.
- Algorithms ignored frontline workers, leading to protests.
What happens when you put algorithms in charge to figure out COVID-19 vaccine distribution? Well, it seems you end up with chaos, with many people who should get the early protection left out of the process, and some who can wait, getting early access to the COVID-19 vaccine. When the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Stanford Health Care, the hospital used algorithms to allocate it. For some reason - probably incorrect data or wrong inputs - the system driven by these smart algorithms created a list of people who should get the COVID-19 vaccine on priority in which the essential staff was mostly ignored.
The hospital has now apologised after staff and doctors fighting COVID-19 frontline protested. However, the whole fiasco has some important ramification as the COVID-19 vaccine reaches different parts of the world. Increasingly, governments and health authorities are hoping to use technology-based vaccine distribution that will identify who should get the vaccine first and who can wait. India is also reportedly going to use technology, including an app, through which it will monitor and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. However, technology may end up offering some unpleasant results in this case.
Stanford Health Care, a renowned hospital in the US, apologised on Friday for leaving out many front-line doctors from its first wave of coronavirus vaccination distribution.
The medical centre on Saturday released a statement on Twitter apologising for the errors in the execution plan and assured immediate fix to it.
"We take complete responsibility for the errors in the execution of our vaccine distribution plan. Our intent was to develop an ethical and equitable process for distribution of the vaccine. We apologise to our entire community, including our residents, fellows, and other frontline care providers, who have performed heroically during our pandemic response. We are immediately revising our plan to better sequence the distribution of the vaccine," the healthcare issued a statement on Twitter on Saturday.
Several doctors earlier came together for a protest demanding why the staffers who did not attend to COVID-19 patients were first in line to get the vaccination. According to a Washington Post report, there are over 1,300 resident doctors in Stanford, out of which only seven are selected to receive the first round of vaccines.
News reports now suggest that the situation at Stanford has become confusing and chaotic with no clarity on how exactly the hospital's vaccine algorithm will be implemented.
NPR.com, an online news website, reports that the hospital's algorithm for choosing certain members only for the first round of vaccine distribution was based on factors like workers who are at greater risk of infections, age, location of their unit in the hospital. These could be the possible reasons why residents were left out of the plan as they do not have an assigned location and are mostly of young age. Based on this algorithm, the plan may have dropped them in the priority list.