the vaccine war


Use these lesson extensions to continue discussion of this topic in the classroom.

  • Use this May 2008 report from the PBS NewsHour, which includes interview footage of two parents of children affected by the San Diego measles outbreak, to open a general discussion of opposing perspectives on vaccination. Conduct a debate on what are the medical risks vs. benefits to the individual and to the community with one side arguing for vaccination and one arguing against vaccination. Have each side prepare its arguments using information from the video and the transcript from the PBS NewsHour’s website.


  • Show the entire The Vaccine War program. Have students respond to the “Did This Report Change Your Mind?” poll and see how others responded. Discuss: What about the video influenced your viewpoint on vaccines? Would it be appropriate for a TV program like this to try to change people’s opinions? Why or why not? Do you think the video favored a particular perspective? If so, which perspective and how?

  • Ask students to think about where they go for health information—and who they trust to give them medical advice. Have students explain their answers. Then, have students compare and analyze different sources of information and evidence presented in the video. For each source consider, for example:
    • Who is the expert?
    • What are the expert’s qualifications?
    • How does the source derive its information? (For example, is it from a comprehensive study or from personal anecdotes?)

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