Immunisation 1/5 Infection

This will be the first of five posts designed as a teaching mini-scheme about the controversy surrounding the MMR vaccination; it is partly inspired by the recently published work by Brian Deer. Please note I feel, quite strongly, that MMR is safe and highly desirable (albeit underused in the UK right now). This is my effort to provide colleagues with the tools (and printable resources etc) to provide good information. I suppose you could see it as immunising them against bad science such as that recently published in the Sunday Express. At the end of the five posts I will put the ideas and resources together, informed by any and all comments and feedback, into one downloadable scheme.

1 Infection


Distinguish between conditions e.g. asthma and infections.

Main 1: Pathogens and Immunity

  • Recap types of pathogen, basics of how the immune system works.
  • Blog is refusing to let me upload a .swf animation which is a shame as the Brainpop one on disease is quite good.
  • Ask students about their understanding of immunisation and clarify if necessary. (Depending on age they may have recently had HPV to protect against cervical cancer, which is a tricky example).
  • Might want to give examples of difficulties e.g. polio if they are up to it.

Main 2: MMR

  • Have students investigate the symptoms, mortality rates etc of a range of diseases, including MMR. How many you use will depend on class and group size.
  • Give a range of websites – I found NetDoctor, WHO, HPA (follow link to epidiomological data, fairly technical but gives good data for graphs) but I’m sure there are others – and ask them to extract basic facts for comparison.
  • Using a comparison table, or having them use something like Venn diagram to show similarities and differences, will stop them simply copying and pasting.
  • Each group could add basic facts to a wiki (if you’re feeling technical) or to the whiteboard (if you’re not).


Why is it sometimes called vaccination? Finding out why it is named for cows (vaccus) will lead students to cowpox/smallpox and Jenner’s work.


MMR – use students’ figures to show how the MMR immunisation saves lives in the UK – compare total mortality rates for these three diseases now with those from previous decades. This graph from Wikipedia shows the dramatic change in cases (but not mortality).

One version of this teaching plan is immunisation1 saved as a powerpoint file. Please comment, both on the ideas above and the powerpoint. A full version will be produced once I have some useful feedback.


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