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the vaccine debate teachers notes

The Vaccine debate – Teacher’s notes
Short answers
What is a vaccine and how do they work?
Have you been vaccinated for anything?
Would you get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 if a vaccine were available?
Do you think vaccinations should be compulsory?
Video – Why are some children still not getting the MMR
vaccine? | ITV News
Watch the video and answer the questions below
Are vaccinations compulsory in England?
Who is to blame for the falling rate of vaccinations, according to the video report?
Do the British public trust health care professionals?
Where does the British Health Secretary stand on making vaccinations
5. How is the British government planning to stop the spread of fake news about
Watch the video again and listen for the words in the gaps below.
Discuss the meaning of the words or phrases in the gaps.
Teacher tip → Play twice if necessary.
1. In the UK it's _________ parents whether their child gets vaccinated for
2. But if we want to _________ measles outbreaks don't spread, we need ninety
five percent of the public to be vaccinated
3. But why are we so _________ about measles right now?
4. More than half a million children in the UK _________ on the MMR jab
between 2010 and 2017
5. Some ________________ what's known as the anti-vax movement
6. Many worry that the MMR jab can cause autism, a theory ___________ from
the British former doctor Andrew Wakefield
7. In 1998, he published a paper claiming there was a link, but his results were later
completely _________ and he was __________ the doctors’ register.
8. ___________, Public Health England believes social media isn't a major factor
9. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to _________ children being kept
out of schools if they haven't been vaccinated against measles, but infection
experts have said that this drastic solution could ________ a rise in the antivaxxer
10. … to remove any post promoting false or misleading information about ______,
like MMR.
In the UK it's up to parents whether their child gets vaccinated for measles. Last year
87% of children received their full dose of MMR; that stands for measles mumps and
rubella. That number sounds pretty high, right? But if we want to ensure measles
outbreaks don't spread, we need ninety five percent of the public to be vaccinated.
This is called herd immunity. But why are we so concerned about measles right
now? Measles is one of the most contagious diseases; it can cause brain damage,
blindness, and it can even be fatal. And now in England cases are rising. They've
nearly quadrupled in the last year, going from 259 in 2017 to 966 in 2018. More than
half a million children in the UK missed out on the MMR jab between 2010 and
2017, and each year the number of those being vaccinated is dropping. So why are
vaccination rates falling? Well it's not just the UK. In America 2.6 million children
have gone unvaccinated. Some put this down to what's known as the anti-vax
movement. Anti-vaxxers believed that certain vaccines are not safe. Many worry that
the MMR jab can cause autism, a theory stemmed from the British former doctor
Andrew Wakefield. In 1998, he published a paper claiming there was a link, but his
results were later completely debunked and he was struck off the doctors’ register.
Since then the National Autistic Society has said there is no link between autism and
the vaccine, but the scare story still continues to spread. Go online in search of
information around vaccinations and you'll find social media is awash with antivaccination propaganda. But is the anti-vax movement to blame? Actually, Public
Health England believes social media isn't a major factor. It’s surveyed parents and
found that 93% viewed health care professionals as the most trusted source of
information on immunization. In fact, public health England think the key to better
vaccination rates is sending out reminders to parents and making GP appointments
more convenient so that vaccinations can actually happen. So what can be done to
increase vaccinations? Well, in France vaccinating children became a legal
requirement last year. Could that be adopted here? Health Secretary Matt Hancock
has refused to rule out children being kept out of schools if they haven't been
vaccinated against measles, but infection experts have said that this drastic solution
could fuel a rise in the anti-vaxxer movement. For the moment the governor plans to
stop the spread of fake news by introducing legislation that would force social media
companies, like Facebook, to remove any post promoting false or misleading
information about jabs, like MMR.
Debate – Set up – Jigsaw Reading
Discuss with your partner or group whether your point is for or against
compulsory vaccination. Then, summarize the main ideas to present
them to the rest of the class.
Teacher tip → there are 12 statements in total: 3 PRO, 3 AGAINST, and each of their
counterpoints. This activity can be structured in many ways depending on class size,
level and time constraints. Here is a suggested way of structuring the activity:
Jigsaw Reading Phase 1:
1. Cut up the texts; keep points and counterpoints separate.
2. Split class into pairs or groups of 3 depending on numbers. Ideally you want
either 3 or 6 groups.
3. Give out one point to each pair/group. Don’t give out the counterpoints for
4. Instruct students to read their text and first decide if it is a arguing for or
against compulsory vaccination. Have for/against columns on the board and
keep track of the points. Students could even come to the board to write their
points in the column.
5. Have students reread their texts and summarize it in their own words.
6. Clear up any doubts about meaning.
7. Students present their summaries to the class.
Jigsaw Reading Phase 2:
1. Now tell students that you have counterpoints to each of the points they’ve
just looked at.
2. Give out the counterpoint texts to each group randomly.
3. Students must now match their counterpoint to the previous points from
phase 1 and then summarize it for the class.
4. Clear up any doubts about meaning.
Language Focus:
Have students look at the underlined words and phrases in the texts they’ve looked
at; have them infer meaning from context and take note of collocations and useful
You can now conduct a class debate on the topic. Divide the class into two teams and
decide which team will argue for and against compulsory vaccination. Encourage
students to include their own ideas and opinions as well as the points and
counterpoints previously studied. You can structure the debate in many ways. Follow
the link below for language for debating and suggested debate structures:
It’s the state’s duty to protect its community
In an industrialized country such as the USA, unvaccinated people were 35-times
more likely to contract measles than vaccinated ones; in developing countries where
these viruses are still endemic, the risk would be considerably higher. After a scare
about possible side effects of the MMR jab, in 2008 there was a drop in voluntary
vaccinations in a part of London (Lewisham). In that part of London only 64.3 % of
children were vaccinated and in that year the district accounted for one third of all
South-East London measles cases. Unless there is a 95 % vaccination, there is a great
threat to public health of infection outbreaks. It is therefore the role and duty of the
state to understand these issues and possible threats and provide protection and care,
in this case, in the form of immunization.
Voluntary immunization should be enough
Compulsory vaccination is an example of the tyranny of the majority even if it is
coming from a democratic government. And in a community that praises itself as
democratic and respectful to wishes of others it is in no way acceptable that the rights
of some get abused by the wishes of others. Besides, The United Kingdom does not
have a system of compulsory health care, but disease outbreaks are still prevented
due to the voluntary immunizations. The pediatrician Miriam Fine-Goulden explains:
“The risk of contracting these infections is only so low at present because the
voluntary uptake of immunizations has been high enough (in most cases) to reduce
the chance of contact with those organisms through the process of herd immunity.”
Duty to protect children
Each year millions of children worldwide die of preventable diseases before the age of
five. The argument presented here is that the state needs to protect the child and
immunize him or her from preventable diseases as obviously the child does not have
the capabilities at this stage to make informed decisions of their own. The United
Nations Right to Liberty and Security of the Person treaty, article 6.2 supports this
view - State Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and
development of the child.
Forcing parents to vaccinate could backfire
The key issue at stake here is who gets to decide about the healthcare needs of
children – the authorities or parents? Critics of enforced vaccinations argue that it
may have the opposite effect to that desired, and end up demonizing parental choice.
Indeed, adopting compulsory vaccinations can be counter-productive, causing
concerned parents to withdraw their kids from school and entrenching antivaccination sentiment.
Compulsory vaccines are a financial relief on health system
Commonly used vaccines are a cost-effective and preventive way of promoting health,
compared to the treatment of acute or chronic disease. In the U.S. during the year
2001, routine childhood immunizations against seven diseases were estimated to
save over $40 billion per birth-year cohort in overall social costs including $10 billion
in direct health costs, and the societal benefit-cost ratio for these vaccinations was
estimated to be $16.5 billion. Additionally, if less people get sick, productivity rates
remain high and less money is destined to social and health programs.
The cost of vaccines is itself high
Vaccines themselves are expensive to develop in the lab and to mass-produce for
widespread compulsory vaccination programs. The cost of developing a vaccine—
from research and discovery to product registration—is estimated to be between
$200 million and $500 million per vaccine. In addition to these upfront costs,
organizing compulsory vaccination programs across an entire country can be very
complicated and expensive. For instance, mechanisms must be set in place to ensure
that the program is indeed compulsory, which means establishing a database of those
that have and have not received the vaccine.
Compulsory vaccination violates the individuals’ right to bodily integrity
In most countries and declarations, one of the most basic human rights is the one to
bodily integrity. It sets down that you have a right not to have your body or person
interfered with. This means that the State may not do anything to harm your body
without consent. The NHS (National Health Service) explains: “You must give your
consent (permission) before you receive any type of medical treatment, from a simple
blood test to deciding to donate your organs after your death. If you refuse a
treatment, your decision must be respected.” In the case of vaccination this principle
should be also applied.
Social responsibility trumps individual rights
The problem with the idea of “individual rights” is that those refusing vaccines on
account of this effectively violate the same right for other people if, and when, there is
an outbreak of the disease against which the vaccine is protecting. Those who wish to
opt-out of vaccination (often on behalf of their children, who have no say in the
matter) are classic free riders, hoping to benefit from the more responsible behavior
of the rest of society. As it is assumed that most of society see it as a responsibility
and a duty to protect others.
It is a parental right to decide whether or not to vaccinate their child
Through birth, the child and the parent have a binding agreement that is supported
within the society. This agreement involves a set of rights and duties aimed at, and
justified by, the welfare of the child. As custodian, the parent is under the obligation
to work and organize his or her life around the welfare and development of the child,
for the child's sake. Therefore, the parent is endowed with a special kind of authority
over the child. If the parent believes the child will be safer and better off in society
without being given vaccine it is the parent’s right to decide not to give vaccination to
the child.
Parents do not have absolute rights to decide for their children
An adult vaccine refusal and a parental vaccine refusal are not the same. Parents do
not have absolute right to put their child at a risk even if they themselves are willing
to accept such a risk for him or herself. Minors have a right to be protected against
infectious diseases and society has the responsibility to ensure welfare of children
who may be harmed by their parents’ decisions. As seen not to vaccine children can
represent a danger for their future, there should be no ultimate power of parents to
prevent vaccine jabs.
Vaccines have severe side effects
Some of the used vaccines may have severe side effects, therefore we should let every
individual assess the risk and make choices on their own. Besides introducing foreign
proteins and even live viruses into the bloodstream, each vaccine has its own
preservative, neutralizer and carrying agent. Evidence also suggests that
immunizations damage the immune system itself, because vaccines trick the body so
that it will no longer initiate a generalized response. In addition, the long-term
persistence of viruses and other foreign proteins within the cells of the immune
system has been implicated in a number of chronic diseases, such as allergies.
Moreover, MMR vaccines may cause a child who is genetically predisposed to have
autism, due to the Thimerosal, which is a compound that contains mercury.
Lack of evidence for prevalence of severe side effects
First of all, many of the arguments suggesting vaccination is dangerous refer to
observations from the 60s or 70s. Since then, more recent studies have reported no
link between MMR vaccines and autism. Similarly, a 2011 study from the German
Health Institute comparing the prevalence of allergies and infections in vaccinated
and unvaccinated children and teenagers, concluded that there was no difference
between them, other than the frequency of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as
mumps or measles.
The text was reproduced and adapted from www.idebate.org with the permission of the International
Debate Education Association.
Copyright © 2005 International Debate Education Association. All Rights Reserved