Marieke Walsh, Kelly Grant and Ivan Semeniuk report on Prime Minister Trudeau’s response to Canadians’ confusion about the risks and benefits of available vaccines, especially AstraZeneca. In a related article on May 6, entitled Britons have bought into the AstraZeneca plan without hesitation, Paul Waldie contrasts the massive rollout of this vaccine in Britain, with little of the controversy or confusion seen here in Canada.
Introduction to the article (perhaps by having everyone read it)
It is now becoming increasingly clear that, as medical science has been claiming for more than a year, immunization against the COVID-19 virus is the only long-term hope for returning to a more normal life. Although ostensibly poor communication from Canadian government scientists and some politicians may be causing some to resistance to inoculation—especially with AstraZeneca—all approved vaccines are effective against the virus. As the age bracket for vaccination is now as low as 18+ in some regions and it soon will be available to all Canadians over the age of twelve, it’s important that students are clear about the facts. This lesson involves a simple reading, research and comprehension exercise in which students will use the attached articles as well as the Internet to complete a work sheet.
Subject Area(s) covered
Social studies, geography, health, current events
New Terms to explain
AstraZeneca, immunization, mRNA, viral, thrombosis
Access to the article and the Internet.
Key things students can learn from this lesson
- The vaccines currently approved by Health Canada and their relative risks;
- How to recognize false claims and unfounded conspiracy theories about the vaccines;
- Why our government is permitted to suspend some of our freedoms to protect public health.
Action (here’s how we’ll do it)
Students are likely getting most of their information online, so this lesson uses their skills to fine-tune their research to determine who and what to believe. First, they are to read both articles, and then use them and the Internet to complete the following work sheet:
Based on the articles you’ve read:
- What are the main vaccines that have been approved for use in Canada?
- Which vaccines are based on mRNA and which are not?
- Which vaccines have caused blood clots in some people?
- What is the relative risk of taking the AstraZeneca vaccine and experiencing blood clotting? (Total number of cases of blood clots divided by the total number of people who have received the vaccine)
- Health Canada officials tell us that it is much less risky to get the vaccination than to face the chances of having serious health issues caused by COVID. Do you agree? Explain.
- If Canadians were to get vaccinated at a rate similar to those in Britain, do you think we would also be able to start returning to a more normal, pre-pandemic life?
- Why do you think Britain’s experience with AstraZeneca is different from Canada’s?
You may have heard many so-called conspiracy theories about COVID vaccines, and vaccination in general—for example, that the vaccine can cause the disease, or that it contains a microchip, or that it’s being used by the government to control us.
Using the search engines of your choice, conduct the following research:
Search: “Ten Common myths about vaccines,” and scan your findings. Next, choose these three common claims: 1) Bill Gates is using the vaccine to implant microchips; 2) there is no pandemic, this is just the flu; 3) vaccines can affect fertility in women.
Next, choose one or more of the fact-checking sites on this page: https://www.iste.org/explore/Digital-and-media-literacy/Top-10-sites-to-help-students-check-their-facts and check each one regarding each of the above claims.
Based on your research, how do you feel about taking any COVD vaccine? How about AstraZeneca? Explain.
Finally, some people argue that the government does not have the right to impose restrictions on our movements and activities in the midst of this crisis. In fact, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does allow the government to temporarily curtail certain rights in the interests of public health. Read the following and check the source at the end.
Section 7 of the Charter guarantees life, liberty and security of the person. These rights may be at risk when people cannot go to work and earn a living, and are told to isolate or avoid going out whenever they wish. Also, a travel ban on Canadians by not allowing them to enter or leave the country can also breach section 7 of the Charter. However, this violation would also be legal if justified in a free and democratic society under section 1. Source: https://www.lawnow.org/freedom-of-movement-during-covid-19/
Do you agree that COVID has or has not created the conditions necessary for the government to act as it has? Explain.
Consolidation of Learning
- The teacher takes up their reports after they have been evaluated.
- Name the vaccines currently approved by Health Canada, and their relative risks;
- Research false claims—conspiracy theories—about the vaccines;
- Explain the basis on which a government is permitted to suspend some of our freedoms to protect public health.
- Students can describe in simple terms the options for vaccination in Canada and the relative risks of the vaccine compared to the risks of becoming infected with COVID.
Helpful Internet Searches
Activities to do together
- Talk to people who have received a vaccine to learn their experiences;
- Note changes in infection rates as more Canadians are immunized;
- Subject claims about COVID to a fact check, and encourage others to do so as well.