School teacher’s project to tackle Covid conspiracy fears goes worldwide

Student worries about the vaccine prompted Ed Stubbs to start the resources. Pic: CDC

A Tower Hamlets school teacher who put together resources to combat vaccine conspiracy theories has seen his work go worldwide.

Ed Stubbs a teacher at Morpeth School, created the critical thinking tools package to challenge Covid vaccine conspiracy theories and jab hesitancy in schools. The project was in collaboration with the Stephen Hawking Foundation, Queen Mary University, London and science writer/educator, Dr Emily Grossman.

Stubbs initially thought up the project in back in November last year. Now the resources that he helped develop are reaching countries as far away as New Zealand, Bosnia and Norway. 

Stubbs said: “This is what I wanted to happen but I never dreamed it would go that far. I wanted to make resources for my school and then spread them as widely as possible in the local area, if not a bit nationally but I didn’t really think I’d be that successful and I never thought it would go around the world.”

Stubbs chose to start the project after noticing growing concerns surrounding vaccine misinformation was sparking classroom fears. Stubbs said: “I wanted to make an assembly in school to inform students about vaccines in general and about the Covid vaccines because obviously I think students are quite worried and are hearing lots of stuff in the media. Then the Stephen Hawking Foundation got really interested in the resources, invested and really kind of made the project something incredibly special and now it’s been used all over the place.”

Teachers can now access the resources through the Stephen Hawking Foundation website free of charge. The tools are available in PowerPoint Format to provide schools with scientifically accurate information based on commonly asked questions surrounding Covid-19 vaccine programmes. The resources aim to encourage students to ask big questions, debate, research and criticise so they can make informed and educated decisions based on their own knowledge. 

A small collection of slides from the resources. Pic: Stephen Hawking Foundation

Lucy Hawking from the Stephen Hawking Foundation told EastLondonLines: “We have had over 500 schools and educational organisations download the resources…The whole presentation is structured as a question-and-answer resource to encourage students to air their questions and concerns in an environment where they can be openly discussed and where teachers have access to the latest scientific information to support their students.”

The resources were first trialled by Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets where Stubbs works before being further developed by Queen Mary University, London and the ‘Vaccine Confidence Project’ by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Stubbs said: “Lots of students have since come up in the corridors and said that they have found it [the resources] really useful. It’s interesting because I’ve definitely heard less controversy and conspiracy stuff being said in the classroom since then…it’s really helped to inform the students.”

The project has since been endorsed by the National Education Union (the UK’s largest teaching union) who will promote the tools to their members as well as Runnymede Trust, the race equality think tank.

Grossman who helped develop the resources said: “As soon as I became aware that there were people out there who were doubting the safety of the Covid vaccine, I decided to dedicate myself to combatting vaccine misinformation and dispelling myths, in an attempt to save lives.” 

“The doubts and worries that young people have about the vaccine are similar to those of adults. The most common fear is that the Covid vaccine is dangerous for one reason or another- ranging from it being likely to cause severe negative reactions or long-term health issues, it leading to problems with fertility, or even that it can result in genetic mutations. Fortunately, none of these theories are based on any solid science and our resource pack not only lays out the true science behind the vaccine but also explains how we know that such claims are not true, in order to set the minds of young people at rest.”

The presentation is fact-checked by scientists and educators and will continually be revised/updated according to recent scientific developments. Lucy Hawking said: “We are continuing to update the presentation as a whole as new vaccine issues are reported. It’s crucial that our resource is open and honest about the reported side effects but also, that we put the incidence of these impacts into context by evaluating the risks of the vaccine versus the risk of covid.”

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