Introduction: The complex dynamics of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has made obtaining reliable long-term forecasts of the disease progression difficult. Simple mechanistic models with deterministic parameters are useful for short-term predictions but have ultimately been unsuccessful in extrapolating the trajectory of the pandemic because of unmodelled dynamics and the unrealistic level of certainty that is assumed in the predictions.

Methods and analysis: We propose a 22-compartment epidemiological model that includes compartments not previously considered concurrently, to account for the effects of vaccination, asymptomatic individuals, inadequate access to hospital care, post-acute COVID-19 and recovery with long-term health complications. Additionally, new connections between compartments introduce new dynamics to the system and provide a framework to study the sensitivity of model outputs to several concurrent effects, including temporary immunity, vaccination rate and vaccine effectiveness. Subject to data availability for a given region, we discuss a means by which population demographics (age, comorbidity, socioeconomic status, sex and geographical location) and clinically relevant information (different variants, different vaccines) can be incorporated within the 22-compartment framework. Considering a probabilistic interpretation of the parameters allows the model’s predictions to reflect the current state of uncertainty about the model parameters and model states. We propose the use of a sparse Bayesian learning algorithm for parameter calibration and model selection. This methodology considers a combination of prescribed parameter prior distributions for parameters that are known to be essential to the modelled dynamics and automatic relevance determination priors for parameters whose relevance is questionable. This is useful as it helps prevent overfitting the available epidemiological data when calibrating the parameters of the proposed model. Population-level administrative health data will serve as partial observations of the model states.

Ethics and dissemination: Approved by Carleton University's Research Ethics Board-B (clearance ID: 114596). Results will be made available through future publication.


This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

Cite as

Robinson, B., Edwards, J., Kendzerska, T., Pettit, C., Poirel, D., Daly, J., Ammi, M., Khalil, M., Taillon, P., Sandhu, R., Mills, S., Mulpuru, S., Walker, T., Percival, V., Dolean, V. & Sarkar, A. 2022, 'Comprehensive compartmental model and calibration algorithm for the study of clinical implications of the population-level spread of COVID-19: a study protocol', BMJ Open, 12(3), article no: e052681. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2021-052681

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 16 June 2022
Was this page helpful?