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Virtual reality program shows what could happen if you skip the flu shot

According to the CDC, less than half of adults over 18 get a flu shot every year. Now, a virtual reality program 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,”said Dr. Glen Nowak, director of the Grady Center for Health Communications at the University of Georgia.

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

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

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 Dr. Sunjoo Ahn, 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 used 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.

RELATED: Trust Index: What’s true about the flu vaccine & what’s not

The team’s goal is to have the VR experience 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.