The SUNY Journal of the Scholarship of Engagement: JoSE

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In this paper, we discuss the design, goals, and outcome of the COVID-19 Vaccine Challenge Innovation Sprint, which provided an extracurricular, active learning opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students in Fall 2020. The design of the competition drew elements from both innovation sprints, commonly employed in technology and entrepreneurship, and global health case competitions which are largely used in academic settings. Interdisciplinary, multi-level teams of students were tasked with advancing an equitable (and at the time, hypothetical) COVID-19 immunization program with the goal of reaching as many people as possible in the region surrounding the university. We provide student participants’ largely accurate predictions about the challenges of a vaccination campaign and their proposed solutions (“pitches”). After the competition concluded, some student participants (the majority of the authors) voluntarily engaged in a writing and research group focused on the topic, demonstrating how active learning can transcend the classroom and organized activities. We include their core concerns and recommendations surrounding equitable access to vaccines and health care, both from their competition pitches and in comparison to the vaccine roll out in the United States in Spring 2021. Students predicted many, but not all, of the practical challenges and health equity issues that unfolded, demonstrating the educational value of the competition. The COVID-19 Vaccine Challenge Innovation Sprint provided a unique educational opportunity, providing students creative ways to apply their knowledge and training while engaging with health professionals, academics, and community members to gain a greater understanding of the complicated reality of a public health campaign during a pandemic.