School staff fear speaking to students about the safety of vaccines in case they spread doubt by “fumbling over their words or hesitating,” according to London teacher Ed Stubbs who created vaccine lesson plans that have been used by teachers around the world.
More than 800 secondary schools in England are being visited by health teams to offer the Covid-19 vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds and walk-in centres are also offering jabs to the age group.
Mr Stubbs says hesitancy over the jab could cause teenagers to grow up scared of all vaccinations. He created a series of educational resources for his students at Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets after seeing pupils becoming increasingly fearful and sharing conspiracy information in the classroom.
The resources were picked up by The Stephen Hawking Foundation and are being downloaded by teachers globally.
He told the Standard: “Even I myself find it quite hard to speak about vaccines to students because every little word you say, every ‘um’, every little fumble with your facts could spread doubt if you say the wrong thing.”
He added: “We do need some kind of continuing professional development to help teachers... address concerns without causing panic or alarm ... If a teacher uses incorrect terminology they worry they can make someone who was just a bit vaccine hesitant end up with entrenched anti-vaccine views.
“There is strong opinion even in younger age groups with people shouting each other down in class and you have to keep a real lid on some of these debates.”
He said some anti-vax campaigners are currently more proactive than people trying to boost vaccine confidence.
It comes after the Standard reported school staff have been left shaken by letters and threats for teachers taking part in the vaccine programme.
A string of secondary schools in north London were targeted in “upsetting” incidents where students were given anti-vaccination leaflets and filmed, which health secretary Sajid Javid branded “completely unacceptable.”
Mr Stubbs said he fears that confidence in all vaccinations could fall due to misinformation about the Covid jab, adding: “There is a real danger that in the future we will see a decline in overall vaccination confidence unless we act.”