Vaccines are all over the news today. Research teams, healthcare experts and others are working tirelessly to create a vaccine that can protect us from COVID-19 and help us get back to a new normal where we can safely enjoy our social lives and normal activities.

Vaccines are one of the most life-changing health advances we’ve made as humans in the modern era, up there with antibiotics and surgical antiseptics. Pandemics caused by viruses have taken an enormous toll on human life, but vaccines continue to save us. (See a wonderful timeline of vaccines here.)

And yet vaccines can seem scary, especially when we don’t really understand how they work or how they are made. That is why we’ve created an illustrated and animated Lifeology course on “How do vaccines work?“. This course helps you understand what is going on in your body when you get vaccinated and how you can be sure that a vaccine is safe to get!

This course is a wonderful collaboration between virology and public health experts Dr. Shauna Bennett and Jessica Malaty Rivera, and UK artist Matthew Griffiths. Launch the course below and learn more about its creation in this blog post!

Creating Vaccines GIF

Animation from “How do vaccines work?” by Matthew Griffiths

Launch “How do vaccines work?”

Hear from the course creators – Matt Griffiths

I was really excited to collaborate with this team in creating a Lifeology course, both to learn something new from the scientific experts involved and to bring my creativity towards helping get that information across in the best way. I’m a firm believer in the efficacy of vaccines and saw this as an opportunity to help others understand why they are so important.

Learning new information from our writers and from the articles and research cited helped deepen and update my understanding on the topics before I delved into bringing the text to life. For the graphics I used one of my favourite styles; drawing “freehand” (or rather “free-click”) paths in Adobe Illustrator. This style along with the soft color palette gave the illustration a friendly feel that we thought was important while discussing a “hot-topic” like vaccinations.

It was really fun imagining the different immune cells involved and how to show their roles. We used some sportd training, coaching and tactics as visual metaphors to show how your immune cells work together with the help of vaccines to overcome viruses. I decided to animate some of the frames in After Effects with the desire to increase the audience’s engagement. My hope is that this will help more people to understand that vaccines are safe and very necessary for building a healthy future for us all.

Vaccines train immune cells to fight - GIF

Hear from the course creators – Shauna Bennett

Tackling a course about vaccines was going to be tricky in a number of ways. Which angle should we take? How much detailed biology should we explain? We decided that we had to think about what our goals were in the current pandemic.

The motivation for this course was the anxiety and confusion that was rising around the rapid development efforts towards a COVID vaccine. People were worried about the process being rushed. People wanted to understand more about the different vaccine types. A number of people were saying they woudn’t even get a COVID vaccine if it was made available. Thus, we took the approach–like we typically do–of trying to humanize the vaccine science while addressing the frequently asked questions of the day.

We included imagery of scientists explaining how vaccines get made and how clinical trials work; we included some history about vaccines and we included an overview of the basic biology to address misconceptions about immunity. I think we covered the right amount of information and I’m looking forward to sharing this course with everyone. My hope is that it helps some people feel more comfortable with vaccinations.

Let us know what you think about the course “How do vaccines work?“!