STOP COVID! app aims to increase youth vaccination rates

SFU researchers develop an app to learn about vaccine uptake and hesitancy in young adults

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PHOTO: Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

By: Karissa Ketter, News Writer

A team of researchers are developing an app they hope will increase youth vaccination rates in BC. Led by health science professor Scott Lear, The STOPCOVID! app targets 18–29 year olds and is rooted in behavioural change theories. These theories ask questions about why individuals behave the way they do. Different theories hypothesize that different environmental, psychological, and biological factors can affect behaviour.

In an email statement to The Peak, research manager Rochelle Nocos said, “Our young adult advisory group gave us great insight into what youth today like and dislike in terms of games, social media, and where they would access the app.” They found that since mobile games are a common source of entertainment for young adults, they are using “gaming strategy and tailored content [to] connect more with this age group.”

Nocos did not elaborate on how they plan to tackle vaccine hesitancy with gaming.

The Government of Canada reports only 83% of people ages 18–29 are fully vaccinated whereas people ages 40–49 are 89% and people ages 50–59 are 90% fully vaccinated.   

Nocos noted “not much is known about [young adult’s] reasons for vaccine confidence.” They hope the use of this app will give them the data they need to “better understand factors related to COVID-19 vaccine uptake, hesitancy, and confidence” in youth. 

They are also analyzing factors including gender, age, ethnicity, and education. 

Nocos said they hope to launch the app in Spring 2022 across BC, and will advertise at restaurants, cafes, SkyTrains, buses, and social media. Recently, they completed pilot testing and reported it went well.

They are predicting the data they collect through STOP COVID! can be used “as a tool for other vaccination and health behaviour interventions,” according to Nocos.