COVID-19 vaccine prioritization algorithms in parts of Italy


Amid a chaotic rollout of the national vaccination plan, the Italian Federation of General Practitioners (FIMMG) and some regions in Italy are resorting to algorithms to more efficiently prioritise who gets vaccinated against COVID-19.

AlgorithmWatch documented the adoption of automated decision-making (ADM) systems to determine COVID-19 vaccination priority orders both by the Italian Federation of General Practitioners and by regional authorities in Lombardy, Valle d’Aosta, and Piedmont. More regions could be about to follow their lead. Both the proponents and the developers of algorithmic prioritization claim that dialogue with other local administrations in the country is ongoing.

AlgorithmWatch cautions that the workings of these algorithmic solutions are not always transparent — and that, even when details are provided, methodological issues remain, which could potentially lead to discriminatory results.

While the ADM systems that were analyzed differ, they all share an underlying rationale: maximizing efficiency in vaccine distribution while prioritizing older people and those who are more at risk because of comorbidities – where a patient suffers from more than one health condition – and the individual’s overall medical history.

Italy is not the only country in which vaccine prioritization algorithms are being adopted. For example, the “QCovid” algorithm deployed in the United Kingdom, led to claims of inflated risk scores due to missing data and more general doubts about its reliability in the scientific community. Similar issues have also been highlighted in Bavaria, Germany and in the USA.


Writer: Fabio Chiusi
Publication: AlgorithmWatch