By Jennifer Allford

When most people are vaccinated, we call it:

  • Agoraphobia
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Herd immunity

For every Canadian student who gets at least 80 per cent in an online quiz on Kids Boost Immunity (KBI), a child somewhere else in the world receives a vaccine from UNICEF and herd immunity is boosted. So far, students across Canada have answered hundreds of thousands of questions about why immunization is important, earning more than 20,000 vaccinations for kids in need elsewhere on the planet.

The free national program is rolling out this school year, targeting students ages 10 to 17 across Canada. Teachers sign up online and get access to 35 lessons covering a wide range of topics aligning to science, health and social studies curriculums from grades 5-12. Examples include: how diseases spread, the immune system, vaccines, antibiotics, digital literacy and global inequality in health including the role of organizations like Gavi and UNICEF.

After the lesson, students answer questions using their own device or classroom computer to test their knowledge. Kids enjoy the instant feedback that comes with taking a digital quiz and also like competing against their classmates to earn the more vaccines. However, the biggest reason for the success of the platform is simple: KBI inspires a genuine spirit of giving by empowering kids to help other kids. The results thus far have been encouraging; an average student answers 175 questions on the site and earns 10 vaccines, learning about global health issues and helping save lives with every single click.

“Kids loved it!,” one teacher reports. “They kept checking to see how they were doing.” Teachers post their class results on the KBI website so students across the city or country can compete with each other.

“Competition between schools is awesome!” says a teacher in British Columbia. “My students felt like global citizens learning about bacteria and viruses in class,” says another. The lessons and quizzes “resulted in good discussions about health care in other countries,” another teacher offers.

Some kids continue doing quizzes after class through KBI’s ‘At Home’ section. “In one school, we had students’ answer 50,000 questions on KBI,” says Ian Roe, National Manager with the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, the organization that coordinates KBI through the Public Health Association of British Columbia. Funding is provided by BC Ministry of Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada along with additional support from other funders. It forms part of a significant and wider commitment from Canada to reduce the global burden of infectious diseases, such as Global Affairs Canada’s CAD $520 million contribution to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance from 2016-2020.

“Kids Boost Immunity (KBI) provides a wonderful example to children that for immunization to work anywhere, it has to be present everywhere,” says Shannon Turner, Executive Director of the Public Health Association of BC. “Diseases don’t respect boundaries, so KBI allows kids to act local and global at the same time by rewarding individual knowledge with a practical outcome that can lead to healthier lives for children around the world.

As the program rolls out, Kids Boost Immunity is hoping to expand the program to more schools across Canada and eventually elsewhere around the world.