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Online Calculator Works Out Your Risk Of Dying From Covid-19, May Help Inform Who Gets Vaccine First


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockDec 14 2020, 15:53 UTC

Medical staff work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for COVID-19 patients at the Hospital of Bergamo in Italy on November 5th, 2020.  faboi/

A new online calculator allows people to assess their risk of dying from Covid-19. The tool doesn’t just hope to satisfy some morbid curiosity into the ongoing pandemic; the researchers say their project could help identify vulnerable people and could even be used to inform decisions about who receives the vaccine first.

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health developed the calculator using algorithms to sort through vast quantities of data on the different sociodemographic factors and pre-existing health conditions that affect the likelihood of dying from Covid-19. To guide the estimation, it also incorporates weekly updated information about different case rates in localities across the US.


The calculator — found here — was recently presented in a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine. After plugging in a few simple details about your lifestyle and health, you can get some informed insight into your risk for Covid-19 mortality at both an individual and a community level.

Like many diseases, it’s clear that Covid-19 affects people differently. Young children, for example, appear to be at relatively low risk from the disease, with most children experiencing mild or asymptomatic illness. On the other hand, it’s known that people of Asian or Black ethnic origin are at a higher risk of death associated with Covid-19 compared to other groups. Equally, it’s well-established that men are more likely to fall severely ill and die from the infection compared to women. 

The calculator takes on board these many different factors and uses an algorithm to assess the risk of Covid-19 to an individual. Furthermore, the tool can also be used to define the level of risk for a group, whether that’s a neighborhood, a particular community, a corporation, or a university.


"People may understand broadly that with a pre-existing condition such as obesity or diabetes, for example, they are at higher risk, but with our calculator, they should be able to understand their risk in a way that takes multiple factors into account," Professor Nilanjan Chatterjee, study senior author and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of biostatistics and genetic epidemiology, said in a statement.

The researchers have previously worked on models that looked to assess the risks of non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, based on the patients' background. When the pandemic hit earlier this year, their attention quickly focused on developing a similar tool for Covid-19. The team hopes that their tool could be useful for authorities looking at who should be prioritized for the first vaccinations against Covid-19 by revealing at-risk individuals and groups. 

"Our calculator represents a more quantitative approach and should complement other proposed qualitative guidelines, such as those by the National Academy of Sciences and Medicine, for determining individual and community risks and allocating vaccines," explained Chatterjee. 


For more information about Covid-19, check out the IFLScience Covid-19 hub where you can follow the current state of the pandemic, the progress of vaccine development, and further insights into the disease.

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