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April 12, 2021

Daily News Lesson: What ‘vaccine passports’ say about global equity

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read a transcript of the video, click here.

Summary: As vaccines continue to roll out globally, wealthier nations have been inoculating their populations at a much higher rate than countries in the southern hemisphere, sparking the debate over “vaccine passports.” Northwestern University professor Steven Thrasher, instead, argues in favor of focusing on greater vaccine equity.

Key terms:

equity: fairness and justice; people get what they need in order to be successful based on their situation

global South: used to identify lower income countries on one side of the so-called global divide (see map: North–South divide)

patent: a contract that allows people to stop or prevent others from using their invention without their permission for a period of time

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who is Prof. Steven Thrasher?
  • Why is Thrasher concerned about vaccine passports as they relate to those who live in wealthier countries versus those who live in the Global South?
  • What is global vaccine equity, according to Thrasher?
  • How does Thrasher propose solving problems with vaccine equity? 
  • Where does the issue of vaccine equity exist? 

Focus questions:

  1. Do you think humans have a special obligation to help others during a global pandemic? How might empathy play a role here? What civic actions may be taken to make sure the vaccine gets to less wealthy countries?
  2. Why does a system like capitalism based on private enterprise and profit-making make it harder to ensure vaccine equity occurs? How might you convince companies to share the vaccine at lower prices to less wealthy countries?

Media literacy: Who else do you think should have been interviewed as part of this story? Why?

Extension activity: 

Watch this video about equity and equality by the University of Maine’s Rising Tide Center. Ask your students: How does the message of this video relate to the issue of vaccine equity? If wealthier countries are producing the vaccines and receiving the patents (see definition above), how does vaccine distribution become an issue of equity?


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