Modeling vaccination rollouts, SARS-CoV-2 variants and the requirement for non-pharmaceutical interventions in Italy

Giulia Giordano*, Marta Colaneri, Alessandro Di Filippo, Franco Blanchini, Paolo Bolzern, Giuseppe De Nicolao, Paolo Sacchi, Patrizio Colaneri, Raffaele Bruno

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)


Despite progress in clinical care for patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)1, population-wide interventions are still crucial to manage the pandemic, which has been aggravated by the emergence of new, highly transmissible variants. In this study, we combined the SIDARTHE model2, which predicts the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections, with a new data-based model that projects new cases onto casualties and healthcare system costs. Based on the Italian case study, we outline several scenarios: mass vaccination campaigns with different paces, different transmission rates due to new variants and different enforced countermeasures, including the alternation of opening and closure phases. Our results demonstrate that non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) have a higher effect on the epidemic evolution than vaccination alone, advocating for the need to keep NPIs in place during the first phase of the vaccination campaign. Our model predicts that, from April 2021 to January 2022, in a scenario with no vaccine rollout and weak NPIs (R = 1.27), as many as 298,000 deaths associated with COVID-19 could occur. However, fast vaccination rollouts could reduce mortality to as few as 51,000 deaths. Implementation of restrictive NPIs (R = 0.9) could reduce COVID-19 deaths to 30,000 without vaccinating the population and to 18,000 with a fast rollout of vaccines. We also show that, if intermittent open–close strategies are adopted, implementing a closing phase first could reduce deaths (from 47,000 to 27,000 with slow vaccine rollout) and healthcare system costs, without substantive aggravation of socioeconomic losses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)993-998
JournalNature Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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