EHFG Hackathon 2019: Fighting Vaccine Hesitancy

At the premises of the European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG), held from 2-4 October in Bad Hofgastein, the Hackathon on vaccine hesitancy was conducted. Jointly organised with EIT Health, the second EHFG Hackathon call was open to experts from different sectors interested in developing innovative solutions for health-related problems.

A Hackathon is a competition with time constraints which aims to share knowledge and develop new, creative solutions to a challenge posed at the onset in a group setting. All in all, 35 participants from over 20 European countries were divided into seven teams and given 48 hours to develop an innovative solution to the recurrent problem of vaccine hesitancy.

Marked as a top 10 threat to global health in 2019, and a top priority for the World Health Organisation (WHO), vaccine hesitancy threatens to compromise the progress made in fighting vaccine-preventable diseases. In the wake of the anti-vaccination movements growing popularity, there have been disease outbreaks in regions where they had previously been eradicated. Measles, for example, has seen a 30 percent increase in cases globally. In addition, negative beliefs based on myths, fear and misinformation have been aggravating the problem. To find tangible solutions, the EHFG 2019 Hackathon sought input from a spectrum of professionals.

Three finalist teams were chosen and invited to pitch their projects during the EHFG 2019 closing plenary on 4 October and were put to a vote via a digital audience survey. With 47 percent of the audience vote, the project VAXOn won the EHFG 2019 Hackathon and the prize money of €25,000. The awarded project is called “AVA – advanced vax analytics” and is designed to use big data analytics to identify anti-vax groups and provide a reliable analysis of their activities for governments and NGOs to help develop timely and effective vaccine campaigns and, in so doing, decrease vaccine hesitancy.

VaxOn team member Joe MacDonagh said, “Our objective is to develop a service that helps those providing vaccines and advocating for their use to locate and combat anti-vaccine myths quickly and easily.” Project colleague Esther Hallal on the Hackathon: “The pitching and brainstorming experience which made our team win was amazing. It is unmeasurably satisfying to see how brainstorming sessions evolve into business ideas.”

EHFG Secretary General Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb, Michael Fichter, Joe MacDonagh, Jurgen Vercauteren, Ivo Christopher Leist, Esther Hallal, and Kurt Höller (EIT Health) (from left to right).

More on the EHFG 2019 Hackathon can be found here.

Published in GI-Mail 11/2019 (English edition).

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