VacSIM: Learning Effective Strategies for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution using Reinforcement Learning


A COVID-19 vaccine is our best bet for mitigating the ongoing onslaught of the pandemic. However, vaccine is also expected to be a limited resource. An optimal allocation strategy, especially in countries with access inequities and a temporal separation of hot-spots might be an effective way of halting the disease spread. We approach this problem by proposing a novel pipeline VacSIM that dovetails Actor-Critic using Kronecker-Factored Trust Region (ACKTR) model into a Contextual Bandits approach for optimizing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine. Whereas the ACKTR model suggests better actions and rewards, Contextual Bandits allow online modifications that may need to be implemented on a day-to-day basis in the real world scenario. We evaluate this framework against a naive allocation approach of distributing vaccine proportional to the incidence of COVID-19 cases in five different States across India and demonstrate up to 100,000 additional lives potentially saved and a five-fold increase in the efficacy of limiting the spread over a period of 30 days through the VacSIM approach. We also propose novel evaluation strategies including a standard compartmental model based projections and a causality preserving evaluation of our model. Finally, we contribute a new Open-AI environment meant for the vaccine distribution scenario, and open-source VacSIM for wide testing and applications across the globe.

Under Review