Low flu shot counts this year in Europe have worried prompted worries among regional health experts and prompted a joint study from the Italian National Research Council and the European Commission Joint Research Centre that showcases the efficacy of vaccination efforts.
The focus of this study was epidemics: their spread and the best way to halt them. Through physics-based simulation, scientists determined that targeting carefully selected individuals with vaccination could be successful in containing outbreaks at large–even if only a small number of people are given the necessary shot. They attempted to replicate large-scale social interaction, including air travel, so as to get the best idea of how such infectious diseases would spread.
In the process, they determined that quarantines become quickly ineffective after an outbreak and that even providing no intervention at all is preferable. Vaccination remained, therefore, the best option for nearly all epidemic cases, and specifically in using what they called an optimal percolation strategy. Under that strategy, scientists identify specific nodes–focuses that contain sizeable interactions at their disposal–that, when removed from a network, will cause the network to fragment into small clusters, therefore reducing infections to small groups instead of large outbreaks.
Scientists note that under normal circumstances, sticking to national immunization schedules remains the most effective way to prevent illness. Physicists have also made immunization advances in recent years that are improving responders’ ability to vaccinate a few targeted nodes, rather than require mass vaccination in times of crisis.