The Disinformation Games

Your safe space for games and challenges related to misinformation and disinformation!

Case study: The Vaccination Problem

Vaccination is a topic of paramount social importance. We live longer and healthier lives, and medical research and innovation have been a driver for this for many years. Vaccination is one of the most important pillars of public health, but they also raise a lot of concern. In many countries some vaccines are mandatory. Where is the truth? What are the real choices we have - as individuals and as a society? How can we make sure that we have an informed opinion on this topic?

The Vaccination Problem

Recommended for: high school students, university students, adults

Available building blocks6

Tags: vaccines, healthcare, conspiracy theories, disinformation, eradicated diseases, herd immunity, religious beliefs

Tips for educators

Building block 2. Religious beliefs and vaccination

Are vaccines compatible with religious beliefs? We delve into the issue of personal freedom vs. public interest and discuss how personal choices can lead to harmful impact to others. Should vaccination be mandatory and to what extent? This building block also covers many of the misrepresentations and identifies the real and false claims about the position which the main religions in Europe have on vaccination.

Suggested resources

1. An all-inclusive, A-Z, website, dedicated to vaccines. Examples of vaccination choice defined by religious beliefs. Pope Francis launches a polio-vaccination campaign; whereas pope Leo XII, who claimed that "Whoever allows himself to be vaccinated ceases to be a child of God. Smallpox is a judgment of God, the vaccination is a challenge toward heaven."
Catholic church and the vaccines: [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

2. Examples of religious reasoning in relation to vaccination: [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

3. Dakar Declaration on vaccination (Islam). The source features a formal document, featuring quotes from the Quran which are interpreted as allowing for preventive vaccination. [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

4. Examples of effects of anti-vaxxing among religious groups. The resource features a vivid example of antivaxx behaviour, driven by religious beliefs and conspiracy theories, with a significantly negative social impact: [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

5. Text and statistical charts on compatibility of vaccines and religious beliefs: [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

(p. 19 and following; table p. 26, graphs p. 30-33)




The Pope giving polio vaccine

This page of the Quran strictly forbids vaccinations. There are similar texts in the Bible and in the Torah. Stop the government! Fear God, not Big Pharma!

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes represent the competences which learners are expected to develop as a result of the training intervention:

1. The learner will be able to identify and understand the nature of religious beliefs
2. The learner will be able to list most popular religious beliefs in the region/Europe
3. The learner will be able to discuss how religious beliefs shape one's personal choice
4. The learner will be able to evaluate the relevance of religious beliefs to the case related facts and information
5. The learner will be able to know and discuss religious implications (e.g. vaccines are not halal, contain pig cells, etc.)

Suggested teaching methods

> Debate (informal) by students from class
> Use of diagrams, tables, graphs/infographs, and charts by instructor
> Teamwork and collaboration
> Brainstorming
> Investigate facts and events
> Debriefing
> Self-evaluation
> Source-checking and fact-checking
> Online information search

Suggested learning activities

> Introduce the topic of religious beliefs as one of the factors to influence opinions on vaccines.

> Divide the class in groups and let them gather information on religious beliefs with regard to vaccination and do brainstorming. Each group should come up with an idea of what is the official position of the religion in question. Discuss the implication of religious beliefs on vaccination, based on sources #3, 4, 5.

> Ask the learners to form two/three groups and to investigate which are the main beliefs that have implication on vaccines within the three major religions - Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Shortlist differences in vaccine attitude between Christianity and Islam (based on resources #1, 2, 3).

> Divide, prepare and debate on: 1) vaccination is against God's will vs 2) vaccination is "a precious discovery which ought to be a new motive for human gratitude to Omnipotence.” or 3) it is moral to use aborted fetal tissue vs 4) it is immoral to use aborted fetal tissue (both debate versions based on resource #1)

> Let each group present a few beliefs that support/oppose vaccination, relevant to the corresponding religion. Discuss the nature of resources, related to religious beliefs - e.g. did learners read the Bible or trusted someone's interpretation of it?

> Sum up the discussion by pointing out the common features of such beliefs with regard to vaccination (such as the fact that none of them is based on medical studies or research). Debrief.

> Analyse and discuss the title added next to the image of the manuscript in Arabic. Check the facts. Deconstruct the source. Try to figure out whether and how it was manipulated.

De Facto pillars

Motivated Cognition: Ask learners to think about and discuss the role of religious leaders in shaping attitudes. Encourage them to think of, and share examples (not necessarily related to vaccines) where prominent religious figures have taken a public stance and attempt to weigh in on an issue.

Frames and Framing: Discuss how systems of beliefs might constitute an identity frame based on the example of the Orthodox Jews who feel themselves threatened by vaccines. Ask the learners to make an attempt at self-assessment as to the degree to which various systems of beliefs shape their self-awareness frame.


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