In 2021, with COVID sweeping through the United States, Virginia’s Department of Health approached the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center (VMASC) for strategic and policy support in modeling and optimizing the rollout of vaccines across the state.
Facing urgent time pressure, VMASC looked to HASH’s browser-based simulation tool (hCore) in order to quickly spin up a custom simulation model.
VMASC needed a simulation fast, which it could:
- have confidence in that real-world dynamics were accurately captured;
- securely combine sensitive internal data with public, often-changing parameter estimates relating to the virus’ characteristics;
- share the model with non-technical users on non-specialized mobile and desktop devices;
- produce informative visualizations to communicate impacts over time and according to various vaccine distribution policies;
- allow non-technical users to experiment with the model, vary assumptions, and create large scale experiments run on high-performance computing infrastructure.
Speed was of the essence in VMASC’s choice to use HASH. Having used other platforms, the team knew that if the simulation was to be useful in the real-world it both needed to be built and calibrated within hours or days, not weeks and months, and prove itself capable of turning around metrics of insight in that timeframe as well.
Upon recommendation from colleagues at Boston University, Alex Nielsen & John Shull, Lead Project Scientists at VMASC, reached out to HASH and began work with researchers, analysts, and subject matter experts on a simulation model which addressed allocation, supply management, spoilage, and herd immunity impacts based on vaccine manufacturers.
When our customers came to us with new questions, HASH made it incredibly simple to get down to work and create a model that could serve as a foundation for sharing knowledge and even hooking in our data. What would normally take weeks took hours.
Alex Nielsen, Lead Project Scientist, VMASC
HASH worked with VMASC to build a simulation that models distributor agents – pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics – administering vaccines to patients. The model informed key scenarios around vaccine distribution, such as the optimal number of vaccines for a distributor to keep on hand or the order of patients to receive vaccines.
A particular draw of HASH was the ease of collaboration with others. The browser-based nature of HASH meant that there were no special environments to configure, executables to run, or pieces of software to install required to share the model with a wider audience – things that had introduced friction into the process of sharing simulation models with policymakers before. Being able to direct-link to HASH simulations on the web, and embed the simulation on other webpages (through iFrames) provided a flexible way for VMASC to showcase their simulation to a wider audience.
The result was a portable, easy to use simulation that demonstrated the state of vaccine distribution in Virginia, and allowed easy experimentation with different parameters for presentations.