[NOTE: This article pre-dates recent announcements of vaccine approvals]  Robyn Urback reports on the challenges in convincing people to take the COVID vaccine when it becomes available. She notes that only around 50 per cent of Americans and Canadians would be willing to do so, which is not enough to contain the pandemic. She urges governments to use celebrities to help work on changing public opinion to favour vaccinations.

Getting Started

Introduction to the article (perhaps by having everyone read it)

This lesson is designed for senior elementary and secondary level students

Subject Area(s) covered

Social studies, current events, health

New Terms to explain

Bio-containment, inherent, geopolitical, RNA vaccine

Materials Needed

Access to the article and the Internet

Study and Discussion Activity

Key things students can learn from this lesson

  • Examples of successful vaccination programs in the past
  • The role celebrities can play in changing public opinion
  • The importance of trusting information from our health experts

Action (here’s how we’ll do it)

Before reading the article, have students reflect on their own attitude about vaccinations.  Would they take one when it becomes available? Why or why not?

Read the article with the student(s), or have the student read it alone, and discuss it with the student(s). Questions to guide the discussion:

  • Why do you think so many people are not willing to be vaccinated?
  • The vaccines now being approved have very high success rates (~95%), which is even higher than the article notes. Do you think this will change any attitudes about vaccinations?
  • Why do you think celebrities are able to change public attitudes toward vaccines? Which celebrity could change your mind, one way or the other? Why?
  • Do you know anyone who has ever had measles, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, rubella, whooping cough, or smallpox? If not, why do you think that is the case?
  • Next, discuss medication in general. Ask what kinds of medication students may have already taken, or are taking currently. Note that the same approval process being used for COVID vaccines is used for approving all medications for Canadians. Ask: If people trust their heart, allergy, and other medications, why wouldn’t they trust a vaccine?
  • In 1924, what do you think was one of the most common causes of death among children aged 1-5? The answer is diphtheria. Have you ever heard of diphtheria? If not, it’s because vaccination has all but wiped out the disease.
  • Next, go to the website Using the information on this page, write a short report that addresses the following questions/prompts:
    • List all the diseases that have now been eliminated or contained by vaccines.
    • Note the numbers of people who got diseases before and after vaccines were developed.
    • If Canadians trusted vaccines for the past 100 years, why do you think would they not trust them now?
    • Based on what you’ve learned here, has your opinion about vaccinations changed? If so, in what way? If not, why not?

Consolidation of Learning

  • When they’ve finished their assignment, students will discuss it with their teacher before submitting it for evaluation.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria

Students can:

  • List some examples of successful vaccination programs in the past
  • Describe the role celebrities can play in changing public opinion
  • Explain the importance of trusting information from health experts

Confirming Activities

Students reconsider their attitudes toward vaccination, from less willing to more willing.

Helpful Internet Searches

Activities to do together

  • If possible, when vaccines are available, take the shot together.
  • When able, explain to others the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID.