Vaccine myth-busting: Materials published for schools

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

In a bid to tackle vaccine scepticism and misinformation among young people – much of which is spread via social media – learning materials have been made available to schools to help explain the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Developed by teachers in Hackney, east London, with input from pupils and public health professionals, the materials are being distributed for all London boroughs to share with primary and secondary schools.

The materials, which cover key stages 2, 3, 4 and 5, are also available for all schools nationwide to download.

They were commissioned in response to concerns that some Londoners, especially young people, are hesitant about accepting a Covid-19 vaccine.

Research carried out by Hackney Council found that young Londoners are significantly more uncertain about the vaccine, with seven per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds saying they would not take a vaccine, and 21 per cent being unsure.

There have been fears during the pandemic that those who rely on social media for news and information are more likely to be sceptical about vaccines.

Jesse Hershkowitz, head of science at Stoke Newington School in Hackney, said: “While many of my pupils are highly enthusiastic about the vaccine, there are undoubtedly pupils who are more hesitant. This can be for all sorts of reasons – some just don’t know enough about vaccines, while others may have misconceptions about them.

“We have developed the learning materials with the help of pupils at our school. These resources are designed to improve pupils’ understanding of why the Covid-19 vaccination programme is so important. Through examining the scientific principles behind vaccination and an analysis of how the Covid-19 vaccines have been developed, we’re working to raise awareness and support for London’s vaccine roll-out.”

Georgia Gould, chair of the London Councils umbrella group, which is supporting the distribution of the materials across the capital, said: “This initiative is a crucial part of our on-going work to tackle misinformation and to help Londoners understand the importance of vaccination.

“Schools are playing a pivotal role in raising awareness of how vaccines work, answering young people’s questions, and turning them away from dangerous anti-vax misinformation. We want young Londoners to feel reassured and supportive when their parents and grandparents are offered a Covid-19 vaccine by the NHS. We know from our role in organising stop smoking campaigns how influential children and young people can be on their parents’ health choices.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s regional director for London, added: “Making sure young people are well-informed by trusted sources is the perfect way to empower their decision-making and enable them to confidently share accurate information through their own networks.

“Understanding the process of developing vaccines, how they work and why they're safe and effective is vital for everyone. Young people often feel left out of important conversations, so the fact that these materials were developed with their input is brilliant.”

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