The UK recently lost its measles eradication status, leading to urgent calls for action and making vaccination an important and timely issue with the potential for far-reaching impact. Meanwhile, the current Covid-19 pandemic and the discovery of a vaccine has renewed interest in and fear of vaccinations. The ORION VACCINE project aimed to create together with young people a digital game, the Virus Fighter, and engagement tool for engaging the public with the science behind vaccinations, infections and the immune system.
The VACCINE project is managed by the ORION partner Babraham Institute (BI) and the seed of this co-creative project is the VirusBreak simulator developed by BI researchers Adrian Liston and Simon Andrews. The project has worked with a diversity of stakeholders to adapt the existing simulation tool into an online game, which can also be used as an engagement tool.
The primary target audience for the game, and the age of the students that were invited to develop the product, was children aged 11-14 (UK school years 7-9). More generally, the project will be of relevance for anyone interested in co-creation of public engagement activities, health communication and working with young people.
The project run for 9 months, from 1st November 2020 to 31st July 2021 and involved collaboration with school children in Cambridge, UK, to achieve its objectives. Including children as an equal stakeholder in design and development is an innovative approach to activity design and has ensured that the end product is effective at engaging this group. Bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders provided opportunities to develop new ways of thinking and generate novel ideas that can impact the perception of vaccines across Europe.
The ORION VACCINE project focuses on creating a freely available educational resource - an online game - and is based around the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) pillars of public engagement and science education as well as gender, ethics and open access. The latter will be considered throughout by, for example: engaging a gender balanced sample of stakeholders; addressing the ethics of vaccination in workshops; and providing open access resources.
The project put extra emphasis on the co-creation phase in line with ORION co-creation process. The design and testing of the game therefore involved a series of co-creation sessions with Year 9 (age 13-14) children from the Cambridge Academy of Science and Technology. By including children in the design of the game has improved the appeal of the product to this demographic. A workshop element on the science behind vaccinations, incorporating the existing simulation, will be included, so the project acts as an educational opportunity in itself.