Introduction

Vaccines are an important part of public health. A vaccine is “a product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease” and is usually administered through a needle injection (CDC). Vaccines are powerful because they prevent diseases instead of treating or curing them. Chickenpox, measles, HPV, mumps, polio, and shingles are just some of the diseases that vaccines have been developed to prevent. Teaching about vaccines is important because students should be equipped with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions in the future about whether or not they will choose to get vaccinated. They should also be aware of the facts regarding vaccines rather than the misinformation they may be receiving online about the Covid-19 vaccine.

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching students about vaccines. It is important now more than ever that students are accurately informed about how vaccines work and why they are so important to our health. There are lesson plans, articles, and informational sites below for teaching students about vaccines in general, and there are a few more specific resources afterwards for teaching students about the Covid-19 vaccine.

Lesson Plans

  1. The Vaccine Makers Project (VMP) Lessons: The Vaccine Makers Project (VMP) has developed a series of lessons for elementary, middle, and high school students to educate them about the immune system and how it functions, diseases and their causes, and vaccines and the science behind them. For educators who want their students to learn about the immune system while placing a special emphasis on vaccines and vaccine safety, this resource provides plenty of lessons to choose from!
  2. The History of Vaccines – Educators: The History of Vaccines offers resources on vaccines for students in biology and health courses. Educators will be interested in the online activities, which include simulations, multimedia timelines, articles, and lesson plans on using the history of vaccines in the classroom, how vaccines work, viruses and evolution, and the scientific method in vaccine history provided.
  3. The Vaccine War – The Growing Debate Over Vaccine Safety: PBS Learning Media provides a classroom activity on the growing debate over childhood vaccines. As an introduction, students will watch a video segment from Frontline which examines the debate among public health officials, doctors, and parents around vaccine safety and hear the different perspectives on the benefits and risks on vaccination. In the main activity, students will conduct a simulation to see how a disease spreads in a community with and without vaccine immunity and have a whole-class discussion on what they learned. Lastly, students will take part in a survey on views about vaccination and compare their responses to the reported results. There are lesson extensions and related resources for educators who want their students to learn more about vaccinations.
  4. e-Bug – Vaccinations: e-Bug’s lesson plan on vaccinations teaches students about immunity and vaccinations and explores common misconceptions about vaccines. Educators can download the full pack of resources as a PDF, which will include teacher sheets, student worksheets, and a vaccination animation. Note that the PowerPoint presentation can be found under the multimedia section of this page. 
  5. Educators Resources for Vaccines: For educators who have a BrainPOP teacher account, the site has put together educator resources so students can learn about what vaccines are and why they are important to us. There are also related topics on the immune system and flu and flu vaccines for those who are interested.

Articles

  1. Teaching About Vaccines: The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) has published an article on teaching about vaccines in which a few high school teachers discuss how they teach their own students about vaccines and give other educators advice on how to approach the topic of vaccines, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  2. Straight Talk about Vaccination: Scientific American provides a straight talk about vaccination. The article begins by discussing how a lack of vaccination in particular areas have led to an outbreak of diseases that we thought were disappearing from existence. Then it moves on to talking about the vaccinations that are recommended for newborns and the reasons parents have for not wanting to vaccinate their children. The science behind the risks of not vaccinating is covered along with the safety of vaccines.
  3. An Overview of the Vaccine Debate: Verywell Health looks at both sides of the vaccine debate in an article discussing the claims and controversy, common themes in the argument against vaccines, and reasons to get vaccinated.
  4. How Do Vaccines Work, Exactly?: Another article from Verywell Health talks about how exactly vaccines work. Topics covered in the article include how immunity works, how vaccination works, types of vaccines, vaccine safety, and herd immunity.

Informational Sites

  1. CDC – Vaccines and Immunizations: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has put together a page on vaccines and immunizations, which includes six things people need to know about vaccines, why immunization is important, the basics of immunization, and common questions about vaccinating. Additionally, the CDC provides many resources for immunization education and training. Some of these materials appeal more to parents than others, but there are a few fact sheets on diseases and the vaccines that prevent them and answers to common questions asked by preteens and teens that educators may want to make use of.
  2. 10 Reasons To Get Vaccinated: The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases offers ten reasons people should get vaccinated. A couple of these reasons include that vaccine-preventable diseases have not gone away and vaccines will keep you healthy. 
  3. Why Vaccinate?: The History of Vaccines provides a brief article on why people should vaccinate. Through reading this article, students will understand the most important benefits of vaccination, which include individual immunity and herd immunity.

Covid Vaccine Resources

  1. Invent Ways to Help Get Your Own Community Vaccinated: PBS NewsHour provides a lesson plan on inventing ways to help get our communities vaccinated. The goal of this lesson is for students to research challenges to the distribution of vaccines in their communities and invent ways to get the vaccines to community members who face obstacles to vaccination once they have learned how the Covid-19 vaccine works and why it is important.
  2. Covid-19 Vaccines – Get the Facts: The Mayo Clinic has put together the facts about Covid-19 vaccines. This resource provides so much valuable information on the vaccine, including the benefits of receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, what vaccines have been approved and how they work, how the vaccines are being distributed, and more. 
  3. Myths & Facts about the Covid-19 Vaccine: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides myths and facts regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. The resource answers whether the Covid-19 vaccine can make a person sick with the disease, whether a person will test positive for Covid-19 on a viral test after receiving the vaccine, whether a person still needs to get vaccinated if they have already had Covid-19 and recovered, and more.
  4. Covid-19 Vaccine – Key Things to Know: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a list of key things that people should know about the Covid-19 vaccine. The resource discusses what we do and do not know about helping to stop the pandemic by getting vaccinated, the fact that Covid-19 vaccines are safe, the availability of the vaccines in the coming months, what we do and do not know about Covid-19 vaccines and herd immunity, and Covid-19 vaccines and new variants of the virus.
  5. Vaccine Hoaxes are Rampant on Social Media. Here’s How to Spot Them.: The Washington Post has published an article on the misinformation about vaccines that is spreading on social media platforms and how people can spot them. The article explains what the misinformation is and where it is coming from, what social media sites are doing about it, why it is difficult to stop these claims from spreading, and what else readers should know about vaccines.

Conclusion

Teaching students about vaccines is so important because vaccines are the most effective way to prevent diseases from spreading. All students should be given the opportunity to gain a basic understanding of how vaccines work, why vaccines are safe, and why vaccines are important to our health. When teaching this topic, educators should be aware of the vaccine debate and how different families have different views on vaccines, but as long as educators stick to the facts, students should leave the classroom with a better understanding of the significance of vaccines.