It has been over a year since the World Health Organization officially declared the global spread of COVID-19 a pandemic. And from the start, people have awaited the arrival of a vaccine.
Then, in December 2020, the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to vaccinate its citizens with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Soon after, Steve Wooding, a member of the Omni Calculator Project, created the first vaccine queue calculator designed specifically for the UK.
Amid all this, one of the biggest questions being asked right now is “When is it my turn to get vaccinated?” This thought led DLSU alumna Reina Sagnip (AB-PSYC, ’15) and University of the Philippines Los Baños alumnus Engineer Kenneth Alambra—both members of the Omni Calculator Project—to create a tool that calculates a person’s position in the Philippine vaccination queue. It was launched in March of this year.
“Is it my turn yet?”
According to Sagnip, they were pleased with the results as the webpage garnered 26 million page views. “We (members of the Omni Project) then decided to try and build one for every country who announced their vaccination plan as we knew that millions of their citizens would be wondering as well,” she says.
Being the only two Filipino members of the Omni Calculator Project, they sought to create their own calculator for those living in the Philippines and began working on the project in January. Sagnip writes, “It’s the first calculator in our collection of 1600-plus tools that’s specific to the Philippines.”
However, the completion of a large scale project such as this was not easy. “Since the calculator relies on a lot of data (such as the vaccination plan of the country, the population for each priority list, vaccination rate, and even the uptake rate) to work, it has been our main challenge to gather all those data to really create the tool,” she clarifies. “We had to be on the lookout for the finalization of the priority list and the figures that go along with it,” she adds.
Behind the machine
The calculator runs with the help of the Omni Calculator Project’s software. “Our technology lets you calculate the results easily, instantly, and in any way you prefer,” Sagnip highlights. The calculator also allows users to adjust certain values such as the time it will take to vaccinate everyone as well as the uptake rate. This way, they will be able to view different estimated dates under certain conditions.
“This makes our technology a flexible tool when it comes to calculating the numbers revolving around a specific formula,” she avers. The calculator bases its data from the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccines, specifically for the priority list and the likely vaccination rate.
In order to determine your place in the queue, the tool asks you to first input your age. According to the priority list, senior citizens will be queued up higher than those aged younger. The tool also asks if you are a frontline health worker, who are prioritized more as they are more susceptible to infection due to being in close contact with infected patients.
Other criteria that the website checks include whether you have comorbidities, whether you are a non-health essential frontline worker, and whether you reside in high-risk areas. After you input all the data, the calculator provides an estimate of the number of people queued before you as well as an estimated date for your vaccination.
The word “estimate” here must be emphasized as the tool has its limitations and cannot provide exact values for vaccination dates and the number of people queued before you.
“This is for the reason that we also only based the calculations on estimates of the population for each priority group and the current vaccination rate of the country,” says Sagnip. “The calculations are also based only on the assumption that the country has already received enough supply of the doses to vaccinate everyone who wants it,” she adds.
Aside from providing the estimated values, the website also provides information regarding the necessary uptake rate the country must obtain to hit the target of vaccinating 50 to 70 percent of the country’s adult population by the end of 2021.
“So apart from the information that the users can directly obtain from our website, we can view the part where people start to be aware of the government’s vaccination goals or whether they have to rethink their view towards the vaccine (especially if they initially do not want to get vaccinated) to help the country reach our target,” she expounds.
With regard to whether or not the calculator takes into account data for all vaccine types, Sagnip clarifies that the calculator is only applicable to the vaccines that are being administered within the country, namely Sinovac and AstraZeneca for the Philippines. “Our tool takes into account the total number of available vaccines regardless of their brands and quantity per brand,” she says.
A new wave of inspiration
As of today, the cases of the coronavirus are still surging, having recently reached the one-million mark. While it may seem as the global economy has taken a shift for the worst, young innovators such as Sagnip have used this to their advantage through pioneering projects that will further alleviate the overall state of the health sector in time.
“We need to constantly check our privilege and remember that there are people who are far more vulnerable to the virus than we are,” urges Sagnip, adding that “no one is safe, until everyone is.”
In addition, she encourages that people use the lessons learned from the pandemic to other situations involving disasters may they be natural or manmade. “May it be a volcanic eruption, flash flood, or a deadly virus, we need to constantly rely on reason rather than intuition to make well-informed decisions,” says Sagnip.
“More than that, we need to educate each other and avoid promoting misconceptions based on our emotions,” she furthers.
In these times, it ought to be ensured that people have access to reliable information. In doing so, we are—in our own little way—one step to ending this pandemic once and for all.