Vaccinations are one of the most significant public health innovations to date, preventing unnecessary discomfort and countless deaths due to harmful diseases. However, there has recently been a movement in developed countries pushing back against vaccinations. Proponents of this movement advance arguments including that not enough research has been done to declare vaccines safe, that they ultimately cause more harm than good, and that they are a government conspiracy. With countless articles containing misinformation supporting these arguments inundating the web, it is understandable that many people have become concerned and confused.
With so many people letting this fear sway them into deciding not to vaccinate their children, herd immunity is compromised, leaving the some of the most vulnerable among us, namely, infants, the elderly, and the immunocompromised, at risk. Diseases previously thought to be eradicated in the United States are making a comeback, including measles, mumps, and pertussis. In an effort to counteract this fear-mongering false information, our team sought to create a website that displays data in a relatable and easily understandable way. Since there have been many measles outbreaks recently (Washington, United States and Vancouver, Canada, to name a few), and the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella is consistently touted as one of the more dangerous vaccines, we decided to focus our research on measles to make our case that vaccines are both safe and necessary.
What it does
VaxFax visualizes the trend between the percentage of vaccinated peoples and the number of incidences of measles by country. Additionally, a Twitter feed is integrated into the site to show relevant articles and recent outbreaks. We hope that this evidence of the importance of vaccines can encourage those who might be unsure to vaccinate their children.
How we built it
Using measles vaccination records and data on reported cases of measles for countries around the world (courtesy of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Bank), we created interactive maps using Esri and plots using shinyapps and R to demonstrate how detrimental choosing not to vaccinate can be. We then created a website using Wix to display our graphics. We also added a Twitter feed that displays relevant posts about measles, from articles about why people should vaccinate to current outbreaks.
Challenges we ran into
Finding the data we needed was our first hurdle, but we were ultimately successful in our search. Additionally, creating an interactive data experience proved to be challenging.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We were able to make an effective and visually appealing argument in favor of vaccinations with the help of Esri and Wix. We hope that this can make it easier for people to see the benefits of vaccination not only for themselves but for society at large.
What we learned
We learned a great deal about how to use Esri and Wix, including how to embed a Twitter feed in our website!
What's next for VaxFax
Currently, the Twitter feed on the website comes from an account we created as a placeholder which we used to Retweet a few related posts manually. In the future, we plan to develop a Twitter bot that will automatically do this for us so that the most current updates about potential outbreaks are readily available on the VaxFax website. Additionally, with time for more research and data acquisition, we will continue to strengthen our case for why vaccinations are essential by including vaccination and outbreak data for more countries and expanding the information available on VaxFax.