Boosting Flu Vaccine Rates With VR


ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — According to the CDC, less than half of adults over 18 get a flu shot every year. Now, there is a virtual reality program that shows you what could happen if you skip the flu vaccine.

As the world watches infection rates for COVID-19 rise, there’s been another virus that has been circulating for decades. The flu causes tens of thousands of deaths every year, but vaccination rates have been low.

“Eighteen to 49-year-old adults, young adults typically, don’t get the flu shot,” stated Glen Nowak, PhD, Director of the Grady Center for Health Communications at the University of Georgia.

In fact, about 70 percent of people in that age group don’t.

“I’ve just been too lazy to go do it,” shared Carter Chapman.

Now, researchers have developed a virtual reality experience to show people the serious and sometimes deadly consequences of not getting the flu vaccine.

“We’re able to get you to very realistically experience future negative consequences without paying the physical costs,” explained Sunjoo Ahn, PhD, Associate Professor of Advertising at the University of Georgia.

In a study they found most people who took part in the interactive virtual reality experience, had a higher intention of getting the flu shot than those who watched a 2D video.

“When they vaccinate, it’s not just about them, but it’s also about the people very close to them,” said Ahn.

For Carter, who use to get the flu vaccine every year before he entered college, the virtual reality experience made a difference.

“Kind of reminded me why I get the flu vaccine in the first place,” said Carter.

The team’s goal is to have this available in a clinical setting where patients can learn why vaccines are important. Misinformation about the flu vaccine and COVID has been circling the internet. One claim made was that getting the flu shot increases someone’s risk of contracting COVID-19. There is no evidence of that.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

REPORT #2782

BACKGROUND: Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold and usually comes on suddenly. Some symptoms can include: fever or feeling feverish/chills; cough or sore throat; runny or stuffy nose; muscle or body aches; headaches; fatigue (tiredness); and some people have vomiting and diarrhea. Experts believe that flu viruses spread by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.


THE FLU VACCINE: Seasonal influenza shots protect against the three or four influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season. The CDC recommends use of any licensed, age-appropriate influenza (flu) vaccine during the 2020-2021 influenza season. Influenza vaccine effectiveness can vary from season to season. The protection provided by an influenza vaccine depends on the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine, and the similarity or “match” between the viruses used to produce vaccine and those in circulation. Common side effects from a flu shot include soreness, redness, and/or swelling where the shot was given, headache, fever, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue. The flu shot, like other injections, can occasionally cause fainting. Some people can become infected with an influenza virus that the influenza vaccine is designed to protect against, despite getting vaccinated.


VIRTUAL REALITY ENCOURAGES THE FLU SHOT: Research shows that virtual reality (VR) simulations could help improve flu vaccination rates. Researchers from Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) and the University of Georgia (UGA) worked together on the study, using adults between the ages of 18 and 49. More than 150 participants with no plans to receive a flu shot were randomly assigned to one of four groups, with each group taking a different step to encourage them to get their flu shot. One group wore a VR headset for five minutes, the second group watched a five-minute video without any VR, the third group was given an e-pamphlet to read, and the final group was given a previously written statement from the CDC. Results showed the VR intervention “increased concern about transmitting influenza to others” while the video and e-pamphlet interventions made no such impact. “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 lead author Glen Nowak, PhD, director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The team hopes to do another study with more participants.


* For More Information, Contact:

Glen Nowak, PhD


Free weekly e-mail on Medical Breakthroughs from Ivanhoe. To sign up: