Creative technology agency Rehab and the University of Nottingham today announce the launch of Covid Vax Facts, an innovative online chatbot aimed at tackling concerns around the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
Misinformation Surrounding the Vaccine
90% of the UK population need to take the vaccine in order to achieve herd immunity, but mis-information and conspiracy theories have provided an obstacle to achieving this. Figures from the University of Nottingham’s own study shows 1 in 5 people are unsure about taking it. Celebrities posting that they’ve taken the vaccine isn’t enough of a solution – and the aim of the chatbot is to tackle the issue head-on.
The online experience converses with users in an objective, non-judgemental way, talking them through what is known and what isn’t, with scientific evidence presented in an accessible way. At the end of the conversation, participants are asked if they feel more or less confident in their initial opinion on the vaccine. The chatbot also collects anonymous data on the responses – which will allow the university’s research team to spot the influence of factors like age, ethnic group and social class, that could inform vital interventions in the coming months. If successful, the project demonstrates how conversational interfaces can become an invaluable asset to the medical community.
The project comes out of a 3-year partnership between Rehab and the University of Nottingham focusing on digital interventions. A previous study from the University identified key issues and questions the public had regarding COVID-19 vaccines. With NHS resources too stretched to handle the number of conversations needed to address these concerns – Rehab have stepped in to provide a solution.
Rob Bennett, CEO of Rehab Agency, commented: “Digital technology, and social media in particular, contribute to the vaccine hesitancy issue, so it’s vital that we consider how we can make technology a part of the solution and work for society – rather than against it. The potential of conversational interfaces has advanced tremendously in recent years, and this project hopes to spotlight how pivotal they can be in fighting on the right side of important battles. Rehab is always looking at the endless possibilities of how technology can help people, and we’re very pleased to bring this project to the public.”
Kavita Vedhara, Professor of Health Psychology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences commented: “There is a lot of information and misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and it can be hard to know where to look and who to trust. We have tried to develop a ‘one-stop shop’ that will provide information about the most common issues raised by the UK public. Our aim is to give people the information that will help them make an informed choice. Having a COVID-19 vaccine is a choice and everyone deserves a chance to have access to the information that will help them make that choice.”