Modeling plays a major role in policy making, especially for infectious disease interventions but such models can be complex and computationally intensive. A more systematic exploration is needed to gain a thorough systems understanding. We present an active learning approach based on machine learning techniques as iterative surrogate modeling and model-guided experimentation to systematically analyze both common and edge manifestations of complex model runs. Symbolic regression is used for nonlinear response surface modeling with automatic feature selection. First, we illustrate our approach using an individual-based model for influenza vaccination. After optimizing the parameter space, we observe an inverse relationship between vaccination coverage and cumulative attack rate reinforced by herd immunity. Second, we demonstrate the use of surrogate modeling techniques on input-response data from a deterministic dynamic model, which was designed to explore the cost-effectiveness of varicella-zoster virus vaccination. We use symbolic regression to handle high dimensionality and correlated inputs and to identify the most influential variables. Provided insight is used to focus research, reduce dimensionality and decrease decision uncertainty. We conclude that active learning is needed to fully understand complex systems behavior. Surrogate models can be readily explored at no computational expense, and can also be used as emulator to improve rapid policy making in various settings.