Where Do Vaccine Doses Go, and Who Gets Them? The Algorithms Decide

Public health experts point out that some priority formulas also conflict with each other or apply such prescriptive rules. Yet many Americans may not be aware of the layers of algorithms affecting vaccine access.

Ellen P. Goodman, A professor at Rutgers Law School who studies how governments use automated decision-making systems, said algorithms were needed to allocate vaccines efficiently. But public agencies and health centers should be transparent about priority sources.

“We want to know who is using them, what they are trying to do, who own proprietary algorithms, whether they are audited,” she said.

Vaccine priority formulas fall broadly into three levels: federal, state, and local. At the top level, Operation Tana Momentum – a multilateral federal effort, created by the Trump administration – has managed nationwide vaccine delivery through Tiberius, an online portal developed by data-mining giant, Palantir. The Biden administration, which has retired as the program, took over and the effort is ongoing.

To divide the dose, federal administrators use A simple algorithm. It divides the total amount of vaccine available each week into 50 states – plus some large cities such as the US Territory and New York – based on the number of people over 18 at each location.

Some health officials and researchers, however, described the Tiberius algorithm as a black box.

“Why can’t they make public the methods they use to make these estimates?” Said Dr. Rebecca Weintrab, An assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, was a co-author of Joe A recent study on state immunization schemes. “Why are states receiving different numbers of doses per week?”

The states began to warn of Tiberius’s previous shortcomings. In interim vaccine plans filed with the CDC, some state health administrators complained that the forum seemed Too cumbersome And the week-by-week allocation of the algorithm would make it difficult to plan months of vaccination campaigns.

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