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article imageVirtual reality can boost flu vaccination rates

By Tim Sandle     Dec 30, 2019 in Science
Virtual reality could help flu vaccination rates, according to a new study which finds that virtual reality could provide a path to increased acceptance of the influenza shot.
This finding is based on a study undertaken at the University of Georgia, where a virtual reality simulation was used to demonstrate how influenza spreads. Through this the impact of the virus on others in a population was shown. The aim of the simulation was to see if this would encourage more people to get a flu shot. Based on the success of the trial, the researchers think the application of virtual reality offers a practical way forwards.
The study used a specially written computer program and immersive virtual reality to demonstrate to people three outcomes in relation to the influenza virus. These were, first, how if infected, a person with flu can easily can pass flu to others. Second, to demonstrate what can happen when young children or older people catch the virus. Third, the aim was to show how someone being vaccinated can helps to protect the person, and the effect this has on reducing the viral spread within the general population.
The focus of the trial was on "flu vaccine avoidant" 18- to 49-year-old adults. Only around one quarter of this segment of society opt to have the vaccine each year in the U.S. (current rates are 26.9 percent), based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
To test out how well virtual reality worked, 171 subject who self-identified as not having opted for a flu shot in the previous year were randomly assigned to one of four test groups. Group one were shown a five-minute virtual reality experience; Group two watched a five-minute video similar to the VR experience but without any interactive or 3D elements; Group three were given an e-pamphlet; and Group four were simply given access to the CDC website.
The results evaluation showed that when compared to video or the e-pamphlet, the virtual reality condition created a stronger perception with the subjects, and this group were assessed as more inclined to opt of the flu vaccine.
The application of VR has been published in the journal Vaccine. The research paper is titled "Using immersive virtual reality to improve the beliefs and intentions of influenza vaccine avoidant 18-to-49-year-olds: Considerations, effects, and lessons learned."
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