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March 4, 2021

Classroom Resource: Answering questions about COVID-19 vaccines

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video featuring reporting by Amna Nawaz and answer the discussion questions. For a transcript of the video, click here

Summary: Although the U.S. should have enough vaccines on hand for all adults by the end of May, it may take longer to inoculate enough Americans to provide adequate protection. There are many reasons for that, but key among them, lingering concerns and skepticism about the vaccine.

  • Although increase of supply of vaccine doses has raised hopes of a faster return to normalcy, some obstacles remain, including hesitancy of many to seek out the vaccine.
  • According to Dr. Kimberly Manning of the Emory University School of Medicine, vaccine skepticism surrounding new, quickly developed vaccines is normal. But she emphasizes that COVID-19 vaccines are the end result of research that has been ongoing for many years into new, safe kinds of vaccines.
  • Dr. Manning explains that mRNA vaccines work by instructing some cells in humans to create the “spike protein” that COVID-19 virus uses to enter human cells. By training human immune response to recognize and attack this harmless spike protein, people can develop resistance or immunity to COVID-19 long before they are exposed to the virus itself.
  • Dr. Manning also explains that there’s not enough information yet to determine how long resistance from the vaccine lasts. Because the vaccine is new, it’s still unclear if people will need to get booster shots in the future or if mutations of COVID-19 might become resistant to current vaccines.
  • Dr. Manning notes that one of the reasons distribution of the vaccine can seem slow is that some of the vaccines need to be maintained under very strict conditions, such as very low temperatures. Recently approved vaccines do not require deep freeze and may speed distribution in more creative ways.

Discussion:

Warm up questions: 

  1. Who is interviewed in this piece, and what are her credentials?
  2. What are some reasons people are skeptical of this vaccine?
  3. Where and When are officials projecting vaccines available to all adults?
  4. Why do scientists not yet know how long current vaccines will provide immunity?
  5. How do mRNA vaccines work?

Focus questions:

  1. How can helping people overcome vaccine skepticism help your community?
  2. What do you think are some ways to encourage more people to seek out a vaccine in your community?

Media literacy: What were some ways Dr. Manning answered questions that accommodated the feelings of people who might be skeptical of seeking a vaccine?

Additional resources:

  • Want to help members of your community get registered for a vaccination? Use this full lesson or this guide to explore how to get vaccinated in your own community.

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