Don’t Just Vaccinate Your Kids, Teach Them the Science Behind Vaccines
In the past week, Marco Arturo has become an internet sensation.
As a young science enthusiast, he posted a video in hopes of spreading a viral message and preventing viral infections. He is a proclaimer of truth (that’s right, there is no evidence linking vaccines to autism), and a clever entertainer as well (mic drop!). He’s young, he’s hip and he’s obviously got some great adult influencers who’ve taught him a thing or two about evidence-based research.
In case you’ve missed the video, you can check it out here or on Marco’s Facebook page.
The truth is that we need more kids like Marco to speak out about the benefit of vaccines. But first, as adults, we need to help ensure that kids today understand the science behind vaccines.
Do our children realize the dangers of infectious diseases? Do they know the basics about how our immune systems work? Do they have a good understanding of how vaccines help to provide immunity, and can they appreciate the impact that immunity can have on global health?
As the school year wraps up, you may be wondering how you can continue to impart some knowledge on your children this summer. Marco’s video message can serve as a source of inspiration. This is not about encouraging your child to be a famous scientist. This is about making sure they understand their own immune system and how vaccines can keep them healthy. After all, what child wouldn’t want to learn about nasty infectious diseases that invade our bodies and threaten to turn us all into zombies? Oh, sorry, I meant to say turn us into sick people with cooties!
If you’re a parent, grandparent, caregiver or teacher who would like to introduce a young child, preteen or teen to important scientific concepts related to infectious disease, check out the following resources:
Activity Booklet: For the kids who don’t want to catch the cooties, but who are very interested in learning more about them, CHOP’s Vaccine Education Center offers a fantastic 16-page activity booklet that is available in both English and Spanish. This book teaches younger children about vaccines, how they work, and a little about some of the scientists who helped to develop them. You can download the booklet here.
Books: There are lots of books that address the subject of vaccines. One example is The Shots Book, an illustrated children’s book written by teen author Ethan Posard. In this delightful story, author Ethan and his puppy become community immunity superheroes after getting their vaccines. Their experiences help explain how vaccines work, how they protect our health, and how they help protect the health of others in our community. The book is also the basis of several public service announcements being utilized by the Florida Chapter of the AAP as seen below.
Comics: Cimaza comics help educate kids about virology in an entertaining and creative manner. In their featured book The Adventures of the Regatjes, readers discover the fascinating story of an 18-month-old unvaccinated boy who dies as a result of a measles infection. In this engaging story, readers are introduced to amazing characters and end up learning a great deal about virology and vaccination.
In the weekly comic book series Zanzare, readers follow the global mystery of the Zika virus where we meet the mosquitoes implicated in its spread. The story is told through the lens of world mythology, but the virology presented comes straight from reputable journals such as NEJM and The Lancet. Thrilling and intriguing, Zanzare is a visionary mixture of ancient legend and up-to-the-minute fact.
Games for All Ages
The Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has developed several educational initiatives.
Trivia Game: While today’s teens may not be familiar with the once popular game Trivial Pursuit, they probably do remember when Trivia Crack was all the rage. After all, who doesn’t love testing their trivia knowledge? Kids of all ages, and even adults, can test their knowledge of vaccines and learn more about vaccine history, safety and science by playing The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) “Just the Vax” Trivia game.
Vax Pax Hero: The Vaccine Education Center also offers a web-based video game designed for elementary and early adolescent-aged children called Vax Pack Hero. In this game children can explore different parts of the body, learn more about different germs and help patients to overcome one of 21 vaccine-preventable diseases. To defeat the germs and return patients to good health, players must choose from one of 50 real-life Vaccine Heroes. The heroes come from many backgrounds, to include doctors and scientists who have developed vaccines, as well as engineers, authors, politicians, philanthropists, diplomats, a milkmaid, and even two small children. As players learn more about the real-life accomplishments of each Vaccine Hero, they learn how each of these individuals can be effective in beating different germs in the game. There’s even a way for kids to win free prizes
Solve the Outbreak App: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a clever app called Solve the Outbreak which is a fun, interactive game that helps kids learn about disease outbreaks and what it takes to contain them. Players receive clues and analyze data in order to solve a case and save lives.
As they work their way up to the title of Disease Detective they must ask themselves, “Do I quarantine the village, talk to people who are sick or ask for more lab results?” While simulating what it’s like to work on the front lines of public health, kids learn to appreciate what it takes to keep a population safe. You can download the app for free here.
Teachers’ Resources & Kids’ Websites
This online destination created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is specially designed for kids 9-13 years old. BAM! Body and Mind gives them the educational information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices. By using kid-friendly lingo, games, quizzes and other interactive features, the site teaches kids all about their body and mind. Of course, learning how to prevent disease is important to maintaining our health. In the Disease section, students can learn about CDC “disease detectives” and follow the “Immune Platoon” as they battle against the enemy diseases in the Disease Database. There’s plenty for kids to explore on this site and lots of activities to engage in.
Share Your Suggestions in the Comments Below
These are just a few of the many education materials and resources that can be found on the subject of immunity and infectious diseases. We hope you will take a moment to share your own suggestions in the comments below so that we can all do our best to inspire young minds.
By providing children with a good understanding of the science behind vaccines, we can help prepare them to make critical health decisions throughout their lifetime as patients, parents and public health advocates.