Risk-benefit analysis of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Australia using a Bayesian network modelling framework

Vaccine. 2021 Dec 17;39(51):7429-7440. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2021.10.079. Epub 2021 Nov 4.


Thrombosis and Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) has been associated with the AstraZencea (AZ) COVID-19 vaccine (Vaxzevria). Australia has reported low TTS incidence of < 3/100,000 after the first dose, with case fatality rate (CFR) of 5-6%. Risk-benefit analysis of vaccination has been challenging because of rapidly evolving data, changing levels of transmission, and variation in rates of TTS, COVID-19, and CFR between age groups. We aim to optimise risk-benefit analysis by developing a model that enables inputs to be updated rapidly as evidence evolves. A Bayesian network was used to integrate local and international data, government reports, published literature and expert opinion. The model estimates probabilities of outcomes under different scenarios of age, sex, low/medium/high transmission (0.05%/0.45%/5.76% of population infected over 6 months), SARS-CoV-2 variant, vaccine doses, and vaccine effectiveness. We used the model to compare estimated deaths from AZ vaccine-associated TTS with i) COVID-19 deaths prevented under different scenarios, and ii) deaths from COVID-19 related atypical severe blood clots (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis & portal vein thrombosis). For a million people aged ≥ 70 years where 70% received first dose and 35% received two doses, our model estimated < 1 death from TTS, 25 deaths prevented under low transmission, and > 3000 deaths prevented under high transmission. Risks versus benefits varied significantly between age groups and transmission levels. Under high transmission, deaths prevented by AZ vaccine far exceed deaths from TTS (by 8 to > 4500 times depending on age). Probability of dying from COVID-related atypical severe blood clots was 58-126 times higher (depending on age and sex) than dying from TTS. To our knowledge, this is the first example of the use of Bayesian networks for risk-benefit analysis for a COVID-19 vaccine. The model can be rapidly updated to incorporate new data, adapted for other countries, extended to other outcomes (e.g., severe disease), or used for other vaccines.

Keywords: Adverse events; Bayesian networks; Model; SARS-CoV-2; Thrombosis/thrombocytopenia syndrome; Vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Vaccine Efficacy


  • COVID-19 Vaccines

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants