New tool for vaccine risk

A national group of Australian COVID-19 experts are launching a new online tool for GPs and patients to measure individual vaccine risk – incorporating the latest scientific studies on associated risks such as thrombosis, and vaccination cover.

The COVID-19 Risk Calculator (CoRiCal) project – led by Flinders University Associate Professor John Litt, University of Queensland virologist Dr Kirsty Short and Victorian GP Dr Andrew Baird – will help people understand their risk factors for COVID-19 infection and vaccination.

Collaborators from the Immunisation Coalition and relevant Australian research areas aim to deliver an easy-to-use, accessible and accurate online tool to support GPs and community members in their discussions about the benefits and risks of COVID-19 vaccines.

Associate Professor John Litt, who is part of the Australian Immunisation Coalition Scientific Advisory Committee.

Flinders University Associate Professor Litt, from the College of Medicine and Public Health, says the respective mRNA COVID-19 vaccines Pfizer and Moderna, and uncommon complication of myocarditis, will be launched separately after the first pilot on individual patient risk profile and the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“GPs are spending a lot of time trying to explain the risks of COVID-19 and the various vaccines to their patients,” says Dr Litt, who is a member of the Immunisation Coalition Scientific Advisory Committee.

“An accurate, evidence-based tool that is transparent and unaligned with professional groups should help GPs in their task of facilitating COVID vaccination in their patients.”

The CoRiCal program, compiled by a multi-disciplinary research team of GPs, medical scientists, statisticians, public health physicians, and epidemiologists to bring the global data collection to one useful portal, will not only save GPs and medical professionals’ time but create an accurate assessment of an individual’s risk of COVID-19 or one of the vaccines.

University of Queensland virologist Dr Short says “the new online tool is designed to help people make an informed decision around vaccination based on their current circumstance and also see their risk for getting COVID-19 under different transmission scenarios”.

“This tool is really designed to help people make an informed decision around vaccination based on their current circumstances and also see their risk for getting COVID-19 under different transmission scenarios,” she says.

“Users can access the tool and input their age, sex, community transmission and vaccination status to find out their personalised risk calculation,” Dr Short says.

“For example, you can find out your chance of being infected with COVID-19 versus your chance of dying from the disease. You can also find out your chance of developing an atypical blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine and see this data in the context of other relatable risks – like getting struck by lightning or winning OzLotto.”

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The pilot CoRiCal: Covid Risk Calculator – a collaboration between the Immunisation Coalition, University of Queensland (UQ), Flinders University, La Trobe University, and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) – will be continuously updated in line with the latest health and scientific advice, including risk assessments on Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, pre-existing medical conditions such as obesity and diabetes and long COVID.

Melbourne-based GP Dr Andrew Baird says the CoRiCal calculator is designed for GPs and health professionals to assess individual patient risk after people enter their details in the online tool. “It presents risk using simple bar-charts, so that it’s easy to compare the risks for different outcomes related to COVID-19 and vaccines,” Dr Baird says.

“CoRiCal may help Australia to move towards 90 per cent or even 95 per cent of the 16 and over population being fully vaccinated. The higher the rate of vaccination in the population, the better it will be for individuals, communities, mental health, health services, and the country.”

He says the tool can be adapted to cover booster doses, new viral strains, new vaccines, younger age groups, international markets, and even for other infectious diseases.

The tool has been introduced in a new publication (in preprint) entitled Risk-benefit analysis of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Australia using a Bayesian network modelling framework’ (2021) led by UQ and QUT and other authors Colleen L Lau, Helen J Mayfield, Jane E Sinclair, Samuel J Brown, Michael Waller, Anoop K Enjeti, Andrew Baird, Kirsty Short, Kerrie Mengersene and John Litt, now online in preprint on health sciences server medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.09.30.21264337

 Senior author Associate Professor Litt says the use of Bayesian networks for risk-benefit analysis for a COVID-19 vaccine can be rapidly updated to add new data, adapted for other countries, extended to other outcomes (e.g. severe disease), or used for other vaccines.      

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