JAN 14, 2020 10:29 AM PST

Can Virtual Reality Influence an Increase in Vaccinations?

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Can a virtual reality (VR) help increase flu vaccination rates? Apparently, yes!

A recent study using VR stimulation is aiming to show how the flu spreads and how it can impact others. Ultimately, these ‘visualizations’ is to encourage more people to get vaccinated for the flu. The study is the first to utilize communications for improving vaccination rates among adults with a “flu vaccine avoidance”.

“When it comes to health issues, including flu, virtual reality holds promise because it can help people see the possible effects of their decisions, such as not getting a flu vaccine,” said Glen Nowak, the principal investigator and director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication headquartered at Grady College. “In this study, we used immersive virtual reality to show people three outcomes—how if infected, they can pass flu along to others; what can happen when young children or older people get flu; and how being vaccinated helps protect the person who is vaccinated as well as others. Immersive VR increases our ability to give people a sense of what can happen if they do or don’t take a recommended action.”

The study was titled “Using Immersive Virtual Reality to Improve the Beliefs and Intentions of Influenza Vaccine Avoidant 18- to 49-year-olds” and findings were published in the journal Vaccine.

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The flu season is perhaps the toughest. Roughly 30% of adults in the United States receive the recommendations on getting vaccinated. The low acceptance of flu vaccination makes it urgent than ever before to find effective ways to reverse that. Now, findings from the study suggests that a one-way virtual reality can be more effective communication tool.

“This study affirms there is much to be excited about when it comes to using virtual reality for heath communication,” Karen Carera, senior evaluation specialist at ORAU, said. “However, the findings suggest that for virtual reality to change beliefs and behaviors, the presentations used need to do more than deliver a story. They need to get users to feel like they are actually in the story.”

Source: Science Daily

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
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