Epidemiological models and COVID-19: a comparative view

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (3):1-24 (2021)
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Abstract

Epidemiological models have played a central role in the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly when urgent decisions were required and available evidence was sparse. They have been used to predict the evolution of the disease and to inform policy-making. In this paper, we address two kinds of epidemiological models widely used in the pandemic, namely, compartmental models and agent-based models. After describing their essentials—some real examples are invoked—we discuss their main strengths and weaknesses. Then, on the basis of this analysis, we make a comparison between their respective merits concerning three different goals: prediction, explanation, and intervention. We argue that there are general considerations which could favour any of those sorts of models for obtaining the aforementioned goals. We conclude, however, that preference for particular models must be grounded case-by-case since additional contextual factors, as the peculiarities of the target population and the aims and expectations of policy-makers, cannot be overlooked.

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Author Profiles

Saúl Pérez-González
Universitat de Valencia
Valeriano Iranzo
Universitat de Valencia

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