If you could find out your COVID-19 mortality risk, would you want to know? Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have made public an online calculator that individuals can use to estimate their risk of dying from COVID-19.
The online risk calculator combines individual risk factors such as age, weight, and pre-existing medical conditions with community-level pandemic dynamics. This means that if infections spike in a given community, the mortality risk estimates for individuals will adjust accordingly. The data from which the calculator is based on is updated weekly.
A paper published in the journal Nature Medicine goes into more details on how the online tools work.
“We developed a COVID-19 mortality risk model for the general U.S. population by combining information across multiple data sources. We believe that the model is unique in that it can be used to project absolute rate of mortality for individuals with different risk profiles by combining information on individual-level risk factors, as well as on changing dynamics in the epidemic at the community-level captured through available forecasting models. We applied the model to data available from U.S. national databases to identify high-risk cities and counties and estimate the size of populations at risk within these communities,” the journal article’s co-authors wrote.
Using The Online Tools
The senior author of the article told HealthLeaders that the online risk calculator is a powerful tool to assess COVID-19 mortality risk and help determine who should be prioritized for vaccination.
“The current guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to vaccinate healthcare workers and older individuals living in congregated conditions using the initial supplies of vaccine doses by the end of this year. After that, one of the major questions would be how individuals in the general population would be prioritized based on age and pre-existing conditions to receive vaccines. It is also known that individuals from certain minority populations as well as neighborhoods with high social deprivation have high risk. Further, the risk can widely vary for individuals based on the intensity of the pandemic in their communities at a given time,” said Nilanjan Chatterjee, PhD, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The online risk calculator is unique and well-suited to prioritizing individuals and communities for vaccination because it generates quantitative information, he said.
“While the CDC and National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine have developed broad guidelines regarding how different factors may be prioritized, a risk calculator, such as ours, brings all of these factors together and weights them to define a single score according to their overall contribution to risk of mortality. Our risk calculator can help to bring in more quantitative risk information into vaccine prioritization than has been considered before.”
Quantitative information is crucial in determining vaccination prioritization, Chatterjee said.
“Without quantitative analysis of risk, it is hard to figure out how all of this information should be weighed to come up with an optimal vaccine distribution strategy that will save the most lives. In our analysis, we were able to show if vaccination is performed based on underlying risk information, large proportions of deaths—about 50%—in the population could be quickly averted by vaccinating relatively small proportions of the population—less than 5%.”
High-risk cities share a combination of risk factors, he said. “Many high-risk cities have a high proportion of African Americans, who are known to be at increased risk of COVID-19 infection and mortality. Further, these cities also rank high in social deprivation due to various socioeconomic conditions, which, independent of ethnicity, can contribute to risk of infection as well as complications after infection.”