Mixing age and risk groups for accessing COVID-19 vaccines: A modelling study

Hongming Wang, Yoko Ibuka, Ryota Nakamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective To characterise the optimal targeting of age and risk groups for COVID-19 vaccines. Design Motivated by policies in Japan and elsewhere, we consider rollouts that target a mix of age and risk groups when distributing the vaccines. We identify the optimal group mix for three policy objectives: reducing deaths, reducing cases and reducing severe cases. Setting Japan, a country where the rollout occurred over multiple stages targeting a mix of age and risk groups in each stage. Primary outcomes We use official statistics on COVID-19 deaths to quantify the virus transmission patterns in Japan. We then search over all possible group mix across rollout stages to identify the optimal strategies under different policy objectives and virus and vaccination conditions. Results Low-risk young adults can be targeted together with the high-risk population and the elderly to optimally reduce deaths, cases and severe cases under high virus transmissibility. Compared with targeting the elderly or the high-risk population only, applying optimal group mix can further reduce deaths and severe cases by over 60%. High-efficacy vaccines can mitigate the health loss under suboptimal targeting in the rollout. Conclusions Mixing age and risk groups outperforms targeting individual groups separately, and optimising the group mix can substantially increase the health benefits of vaccines. Additional policy measures boosting vaccine efficacy are necessary under outbreaks of transmissible variants.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere061139
JournalBMJ open
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec 12


  • COVID-19
  • Health policy
  • Public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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