Maths students contribute to coronavirus vaccination planning

Five Master's students of VU Amsterdam developed a mathematical model that has greatly improved the planning of coronavirus vaccinations in the Netherlands, so people could be vaccinated more quickly. The students were advised by Rob van der Mei (CWI and VU) and Dennis Moeke (HAN).

Publication date: 15-07-2021

Five Master’s students of the VU Amsterdam’s Business Analytics programme developed a mathematical model that has greatly improved the planning of coronavirus vaccinations in the Netherlands. They were advised by Rob van der Mei (CWI and VU Amsterdam) and Dennis Moeke (HAN) and financially supported by VU Amsterdam, CWI and GGD GHOR. Their model enabled smarter distribution of the vaccines between the various GGD vaccination locations, so the Dutch population could be vaccinated more quickly.

Tara Zver, Berend Markhorst, Nina Malbašić, Renze Dijkstra and Daan Otto used mathematics to solve a difficult practical problem. It all started in February, when they won the TKI DINALOG challenge, an initiative of the Creative Industry, Logistics, ICT and LSH ‘Top Sectors’. Thanks to the ensuing publicity, the students were approached by Chiel Noppe of ASML, who co-developed a volunteer initiative, and they were also introduced to GGD GHOR (the joint Regional Medical Assistance Organizations).

With financial assistance from VU Amsterdam, CWI (the national research institute for mathematics and computer science) and GGD GHOR, the five students set to work to develop a mathematical model to improve vaccination planning.

Smarter distribution
The model they developed was deployed in the field in early June and enabled smarter distribution of the vaccines between the various Municipal Health Service (GGD) vaccination locations, so that the Dutch population could be vaccinated more quickly. Moreover, the innovative approach led to a more even vaccination rate between the various GGD regions.

The various involved parties are already thinking about their next steps, such as implementing the approach in future vaccination campaigns. For example, they are looking at how they could improve the selection of locations for vaccination sites using mathematical models. What started out as a student project in January 2021 has already evolved into a solution that is being used at the national level to improve public health.

The students were advised during the project by Rob van der Mei and Dennis Moeke. CWI researcher Rob van der Mei is working in CWI's Stochastics group. He is also manager research & development of CWI and professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Dennis Moeke is lecturer of Logistics of HAN University of Applied Sciences. Rob van der Mei is proud of the work the students did in contributing to the coronavirus vaccination planning. He says: "This is a textbook example of the social added value of mathematics!"

TKI DINALOG adds: "Follow-up steps are currently being considered, including approaches to future vaccination campaigns, such as improving the placement of vaccination sites using mathematical models. What was still only a project for the university in January has now developed into a solution that is used at a national level and contributes to the Dutch public health: "The sky is the limit”".

 

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See also: VU Amsterdam news and DINALOG news item (in Dutch)