Denmark trial uses virtual reality game to boost COVID vaccinations

by Reuters
Tuesday, 8 June 2021 12:09 GMT

A still from the virtual reality game developed by the University of Copenhagen to encourage vaccinations. University of Copenhagen via Reuters

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Could getting players to step into the shoes of an elderly person trying to avoid infection help to boost take-up of COVID-19 shots?

By Tim Barsoe

COPENHAGEN, June 7 (Reuters) - Denmark researchers are using virtual reality to encourage more COVID-19 vaccinations, through a game of maneuvering through a virus-infected crowd in a city square.

In an experiment by the University of Copenhagen, participants wear goggles to play an elderly person crossing the square while avoiding red-clothed bypassers infected with COVID-19. Vaccinated characters dress in blue.

"It was fun, definitely. It felt like you were there," said Adam, a participant who got infected in the game he played in a Copenhagen park.

Adam already had decided to get a COVID-19 shot before this, he said.

"We know from similar studies that after people went through a virtual reality experience like this, their vaccination intention increases. We have observed this with COVID already," said Robert Bohm, professor of psychology at the University of Copenhagen, citing a prior online study by the researchers.

The idea can be used at doctor's offices, he suggested.

The World Health Organisation estimates that immunisation prevents 4 million to 5 million deaths every year.

In February-March, more than a quarter of European Union adults said they would refuse a COVID-19 shot, a survey by the EU agency Eurofound showed. (Reporting by Tim Barsoe; Editing by Richard Chang)

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