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 4. Eradicated diseases and herd immunity

The use of vaccines has led to the eradication of life-threatening diseases such as the endemic yellow fever, rubella and respiratory diphtheria. The latest outbursts of measles, possibly caused by growing vaccination hesitancy and refusal, challenges the concepts of herd immunity and elimination of lethal infections. This building block gives ground to debate on the efficacy of vaccines and their positive impact on the human life-span.

Suggested resources

1. Disease Eradication (Тhe History of vaccines, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia) [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

In 1980, after decades of efforts by the World Health Organization, the World Health Assembly endorsed a statement declaring smallpox eradicated.  Polio, though it has been reduced or eliminated in most countries through widespread vaccination, still circulates in some areas. 

2. EU cooperation against vaccine-preventable diseases (infographic) [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

3. Animated history of vaccines animated (WHO) [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

4. An Anti-Vaxxer & A Doctor Argue Their Case On The Vaccine 'Debate' (Refinery 29, a digital media for young women) [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

Retrieved from interview with 31-year-old Laura, a full-time foster carer in west London who is 34 weeks pregnant with her first child.

5. Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and The Forgotten History by Dr. Suzanne Humphris [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

Today, we are told that medical interventions increased our lifespan and single-handedly prevented masses of deaths. But is this really true?

6. How effective are vaccines at the population level? [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

They can also stop diseases from spreading by creating herd protection. No vaccine is 100 per cent effective, and not everyone in a population will be vaccinated; however, if most people in a population are vaccinated and become immune to a disease, its ability to spread will be vastly reduced.

7. People who depend on herd immunity (The Vaccine Knowledge Project, Oxford Vaccine Group) [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]

Some people in the community rely on herd immunity to protect them. These groups are particularly vulnerable to disease, but often cannot safely receive vaccines.

8. Herd Immunity: A False Rationale for Vaccine Mandates [Open from webarchive if link broken/inactive]



1. What Deadly Diseases Look Like On Your Body

2. 95% vaccination coverage for a measles

3. Polio eradication: making history together

4. A brief history of vaccination

5. The Unvaccinated are healthier

6. The last few polio survivors

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 name and outline in simple terms 3 major diseases for which there are vaccines and for which population can be inoculated.
2. The learner will be able to describe herd immunity and how it works.
3. The learner will be able to identify the differences between the concepts of individual immunity and herd immunity
5. The learner will be able differentiate between non-expert and expert competence needed to assess different arguments and claims.

Suggested teaching methods

> Searching for information
> Brainstorming
> Form opinions and formulate arguments
> Identify and list characteristic features of each profile - pro/anti-vaxxer
> Group discussion and asking questions
> Apply source and fact checking to a set of resources
> Re-evaluate

Suggested learning activities

> Introduce three diseases for which vaccines have been used for decades: measles, polio, hepatitis B. These are commonly administered vaccines, whether by choice or mandatory.

> Give statistical data - year of introduction, number of diseased in the following years, up-to-date data.

> Introduce the statement: Vaccines are able to eradicate diseases like measles, polio and hepatitis and achieve herd immunity.

> Explain briefly that there are two groups of people - anti-vaxxers and pro-vaxxers - by stressing the respect needed for a quality conversation during the case study.

The following is a loop to be repeated as many times as there are resources available:
> Give the class the first resource from the list of links. Allow time to read/view, search for additional information and form an opinion.

> Divide the class physically in two groups: Group 1 notionally labelled Pro-vaxxers and Group 2 , notionally labelled "Anti-vaxxers".

> Introduce the next resource from the list. Instruct the learners to search for arguments and facts.

> Instruct the learners to move from one group to the other if the last resource changed their opinion from the previous step.

> Repeat as needed.

> Allow time for group discussions in order to analyse the information and formulate a strategy to defend their position.

> Start presentations. Each group recaps the search results, explains the group opinion and supports it with evidence from the gathered information. Guide it impartially. Allow equal time for each side.

> Allow time for each participant to assess the statement based on the "Evidence" presented and finally select a group. Have they changed their opinion and why?

> Summarise the topics. Direct attention to fact-checking and source-checking based on the Eggshell model.

> Ask the two groups to re-evaluate their position and the arguments already used in the debate. Encourage self-reflection with focus on information/disinformation. In full group: enlist, explain, provide example to properties which may indicate disinformation or manipulation.

De Facto pillars

Motivated Cognition: Explain what motivated cognition is and provide examples using the activity just completed (e.g. trusting particular sources, being influenced by...) - make a list (optionally, refer to a pre-made list) with many possible instances of motivated cognition.
Equivalence and Emphasis frames: Ask the learners to consider this set of statements: "In 2018 the EU hit a record high with more than 82,500 reported cases of measles and 72 deaths" and "In 2018 just 0,087% of those infected with measles in the EU died from it". Further, ask for their opinion on how and why people might react differently to the two statements, even though they are of equal meaning. As a practice, ask the learners to come up with another set of statements (as in the example). Let them choose the topic freely.


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