Video games are generally intended to be fun, but what University of Iowa professor Maurine Nieman dealt with on February 19, 2020, was no game. According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, it was exactly one day before the nationwide COVID-19 public health emergency was officially declared, when tragically and ironically, Nieman would lose her son JJ to of all things, asthma symptoms leading to complications of the flu.

Nieman wants the flu to stay top-of-mind despite the COVID takeover

Some say the acknowledgment of the flu and other illnesses have taken a back seat since the Coronavirus pandemic began, but Maurine Nieman's story shows that it needs to stay in the spotlight. She has invented a video game for parents and children to stay educated. Flu vaccination (or for those who hate the polarizing "V-word"--getting their flu shot) among children has dropped by 5 percent since 2019, and that's where Nieman and her students came in, starting a collaboration with a nonprofit called Families Fighting Flu. The group began designing a video game called "Flu's Clues". The Gazette describes the object of the "game" as such:

“Flu’s Clues” — in a “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego” mission-centered style — takes kids into laboratories and communities from California to Nigeria to Taiwan and the United Kingdom to track influenza spread and create effective vaccines to halt it.

In other words, helping locate where flu outbreaks are and learning how they would create a vaccine (virtually).

After the mission of the game is complete, a message from a researcher appears:

“Congratulations. Because we made an effective vaccine, we were able to save the lives of 1.8 million people. We were able to decrease hospitalizations by 8 million people.”

The game is designed to be "educational and accessible in the midst of a non-flu-related pandemic that’s heightened children’s awareness of viruses, how they spread, and how vaccines can help prevent them."

"Flu's Clues" is now available here.

Answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

Keep reading to discover answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions.

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