Finally, there is light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel but the anti-vaxxer community poses a serious risk. With one vaccine already in circulation and another one on the horizon, we have an opportunity to put this pandemic behind us – if more people get the shot.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of push back against the vaccine from the anti-vaxxer community because these folks lack one critical thing – education! What’s the most effective way to educate people today? Immersive virtual reality.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 75% to 85% of the population will need to be vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus.
Yet, from a December 2020 poll, Pew Research Center reported 39% of people definitely or probably will not take the vaccine, though almost half that group said they might change their minds if more information becomes available. This crucial second point is proof that to get us past the threshold – to stop the spread – we will need to change some hearts and minds.
Companies Profiting from COVID Vaccines Must Educate the People
Pfizer, Moderna, the CDC – they’ve all missed the boat. They’ve spent billions on research & development for the vaccine, but thus far they’ve failed to invest in communicating how the vaccine works. Sure, there are a handful of videos online that offer a bit of explanation about mRNA vaccines but nothing substantial from these drug companies, the CDC or the FDA.
Pfizer and Moderna leveraged the latest, most cutting edge technology to develop vaccines at record speed. Why not utilize the most cutting edge technology for messaging to build public awareness and understanding?
Because we certainly don’t want to get to a point where it is mandatory for people to get vaccinated, we need to be able to make an informed decision for ourselves. In order to make an informed decision, we first need to be properly educated. This is especially true for the anti-vaxxer community.
It is the responsibility of the companies who are looking to turn a profit from this vaccine to educate the population about how it works. Vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, Moderna and distributors like CVS should find inspiration in other companies leading the way in virtual reality education.
Wal-Mart, Lufthansa, Tesla and Accenture (to name a few) are all using virtual reality to educate and train employees. VR is already being used in medicine to facilitate surgery and rehabilitation. They’re not doing this because it’s a novelty. They’re doing this because it works.
A recent PwC study found virtual reality education to be 4x more effective than classroom education with 4x more focused learning, with 275% more confidence to apply skills learned in VR and with participants 3.75x more emotionally connected to content than classroom learners.
Let’s Imagine the Reality We Wish For the World
Since the beginning of the pandemic, virtual reality usage is up a whopping 71%. Let’s ride the momentum and capitalize on this increased attention by engaging with the most effective education tool available to us today.
VR can put you inside a molecule or into orbit around Mars. What better way to learn chemistry or astronomy? VR works because it puts the viewer in the shoes of a refugee or an assault victim. It’s an unique way to understand a perspective that you’d otherwise not be privy to.
I’ve seen this work first-hand as I’ve been creating virtual reality experiences for years. Recently, I worked with Oatly to produce a VR training program for factory workers, yielding immediate positive results. I’ve collaborated with nonprofit organizations like the Voss Foundation on VR films to tell the personal stories of those whom they serve with compelling calls for support. I do this because I believe in the power of the medium – to build understanding, to inspire empathy, and to motivate action.
Imagine an immersive VR experience that shows the Messenger RNA in action as it transmits the instructions to kill the coronavirus. Imagine sitting beside a person too vulnerable to take the vaccine themselves – a cancer patient, a pregnant woman, a child with pre-existing conditions, or someone with mobility issues living in a rural area. There are countless examples of folks who will not have the privilege to get vaccinated no matter how much they want it. What if we told their story with a 360 video virtual reality documentary series. Someone who’s an Anti-vaxxer may think twice before making a choice that can perpetuate the infection of at-risk friends and family members if they better understand the consequences of their inaction. Think of how many lives VR can potentially help save.
What about the VR stories of essential workers? The nurses who have put their life on the line just by doing their job? It’s been exhausting for them. They could use some relief. But that relief will not come if people continue to get sick with COVID-19 because they were unwilling to be vaccinated and infected their communities as a result. For the sake of our essential worker heroes, let’s do what we can to transform conspiracy into compassion.
Don’t Hate the Anti-Vaxxer, Hate the Magical Thinking
There’s too many people fearful of this vaccine. The current rate is not sustainable. This kind of magical thinking is not healthy. It is not sustainable – not for combatting this virus, nor a future pandemic. Magical thinking of this variety is dangerous for society at large. We must use the best tools at our disposal to train new ways rooted in science and represented with the language of storytelling.
If we wish to make a new reality, we’ll need to start with virtual reality.