COVID-19 Watch News

How far am I from the queue?: Filipino researchers develop Vaccine Queue Calculator

A continued rise in positive COVID-19 cases led to the creation of something convenient for users to find their place in the long vaccination line.

“How far am I from the queue?”

Two researchers from Omni Calculator have the answer. With their ‘Vaccine Queue Calculator,’ Engr. Kenneth Alambra and Reina Sagnip hope to help every Filipino in determining when they will have the vaccine and where users are in the queue.

“Actually last year, nung nag-start ‘yung pandemic, we’ve already started creating Corona virus-related calculators. So nung lumabas ‘yung balita na meron ng bakuna, isa ‘yun sa mga naisip namin na gawin, ‘yung vaccine calculator,” Engr. Alambra, a BS Civil Engineering alumnus from UPLB said, explaining what pushed them to take initiative in creating the project. 

This was in light of the Philippine government’s official launch of its vaccination program last March 1, wherein vaccines from various companies including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and even ones that are manufactured in China, such as CoronaVac were procured.

The government’s aim is to vaccinate 50 to 70% of the population by the end of the year, which can only happen if their target rate of vaccinating at least 1,274,980 Filipinos weekly is reached. However, the country is still a long way from meeting our government’s target. As of March 30 this year, only 737,569 of the 1,079,800 vaccines allocated for the first dose had been administered to the public.

“Since there are around 110 million people in the Philippines, not everybody can get vaccinated immediately. It raises a whole load of new questions: Who will be first in the queue to get the vaccine? When are you likely to be offered it? [and] How far are we away from the finish line?” both Engr. Alambra and Sagnip of De La Salle University (DLSU)-Manila told the Perspective in an email.

This sluggish rate, among other factors, are measured by the Vaccine Queue Calculator, determining an approximate of the user’s place in the long queue of individuals wanting to be vaccinated in the Philippines.

Birth of the vaccine calculator

In a virtual interview with Engr. Alambra, they discussed that their idea began with that of a colleague, a British physicist.

“So this project started last December, when our co-researcher Steve Wooding wondered kung pang-ilan siya sa pila. Kasi from United Kingdom siya, and UK was one of the countries to start vaccinating [their] people, so sila ‘yung una sa mga nagbabakuna,” Engr. Alambra said. 

This led Wooding to create the first ever vaccine queue calculator for his country. It has since drawn the attention of numerous people, who then began accessing Wooding’s project. 

When the Philippines finally commenced its vaccination program, Engr. Alambra and Sagnip used data from The Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccines to create the calculator.

After the information was published in late February, they still waited for the target vaccination rate of the government, hence leading them to make adjustments in the calculator. 

Engr. Alambra and Sagnip were able to complete the calculator with the help of Wooding, who assisted in programming and consulting. As daunting as it looked, it was little of a surprise for the duo, citing that they encountered various obstacles while working on the project. 

Una sa lahat, since January, we have started creating the calculator. However, since the figures are not yet available [at that time], like the population for each priority group […] it was a challenge [for us] to get those data,” explained Engr. Alambra.

He discussed the difficulty of creating adjustments in the calculator, after noting changes in the national vaccination plan. He also noted that the main challenge they have faced was seeking actual data for the updated priority list since the figures had been changing. 

Functions and accuracy 

In most cases, one would be dubious of the accuracy this calculator provides, but Alambra and Sagnip thoroughly demonstrated the function and the precision of this calculator. Every piece of information shown in the calculator is focused solely on government statistics.

As the researchers said in their report, the Philippine government prioritizes residents in high-risk communities with dense populations.

To use the calculator, users must type their age in years.

People who are expected to be prioritized include senior (60 years and older), active health workers (due to being more exposed to the virus), ones with pre-existing diseases or comorbidities who are aged 18 to 59 years, a “frontliner” in “essential sectors” that are recognized by COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), and other “indigent population” as said by Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are under Priority Group A.

Users with hypertension, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, or any chronic diseases and respiratory ailments will have to say yes to the “persons with comorbidities” field. However, before you take the vaccine, and to ensure maximum protection, it will always be best to see your own doctor.

Demographic section..
Screengrab from the Vaccine Queue Calculator.

“Essential sectors” that are recognized by IATF include uniformed staff of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) among other agencies, and agricultural and manufacturing workers among other lines of work. All this according to the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines.

Priority Eligible B, meanwhile, would cover others vulnerable to the virus, including teachers, government workers, workers outside the Philippines, persons with disabilities (as recognized again by DSWD), “those deprived of their liberties,” and indigenous folk.

The estimated minimum and maximum number of queued people before the user gets their vaccine will be shown, including the assumed date of vaccination, upon answering the questions.

However, the figures in the queue are subject to changes since there are three vaccine rollout options available in the calculator: the Philippine government’s vaccination rate target, the current actual rate of the vaccination campaign based on the data provided by the Department of Health (DOH), or one in which you can set the average vaccine rate in days, weeks, months, and years. This is where the time at which vaccines are distributed is seen. You may also insert an estimation of how long it will take to vaccinate each adult in the Philippines in whichever format you choose.

The different vaccination rate in the Philippines.
Screenshot from the Vaccine Queue Calculator.

For instance, if an 18-year-old student who does not fall into any of the aforementioned priority groups uses this calculator then selects “the Philippine government’s target” as their option in the vaccine rollout, there will be between 26,769,670 and 40,664,981 people in front of them in the queue for a COVID vaccine across the Philippines. Their first dose is expected to be administered between January 21, 2022 and June 23, 2022.

But, if they chose the current actual rate in the drop-down menu, they will most likely undergo their first vaccination between September 23, 2025 and January 20, 2028. The vaccination dates are longer as compared to the first result, owing to the fact that the calculation at this point is dependent on how the Philippine government distributes vaccines to individuals at a given time frame, saying that the numbers shown in the calculator can be relied on.

“…There are some [from abroad] na nagbigay sa’min ng feedback na almost the same ‘yung date, nauna lang ‘yung vaccination niya ng dalawang araw doon sa ibinigay na result ng calculator.” he said. 

The result of the calculation,
Screenshot from the Vaccine Queue Calculator.

However, Sagnip stated that the queue can also not be strictly followed due to reasons such as incorrect input from local government units (LGUs) and the infamous ‘VIP Vaccination.’ Such massive changes would not be reflected on the calculator though. 

According to the two, the calculator would be available to anyone with internet access anytime without the need to sign up or enter personal information such as name, email address, contact number, and the likes of it. 

As of now, they have no long-term plans for this calculator. Instead, they hoped that the pandemic would end, and the number of affected individuals and fatalities will gradually diminish. 

“We are hoping that this pandemic is going to end, and ‘yung figures na binibigay nito ay mauubos. So as long as we are vaccinating, there are people who [will] get [to have] the vaccine. And once matapos tayo sa pagbabakuna, then the calculator will not be significant anymore,” explained Alambra.

The Vaccine Queue Calculator for the Philippines can be accessed here. [P]

Photos from Kenneth Alambra, Reina Sagnip, OMNI Calculator,
Collage by Gerard Laydia

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