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Blizard Institute - Barts and The London

Professor Daniel Pennington helps to tackle vaccine hesitancy among young people

Daniel Pennington, Professor of Molecular Immunology and Centre Lead for the Centre for Immunobiology at the Blizard Institute, joined secondary school teacher Ed Stubbs to design resources to help young people better understand immunisation programmes.

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Ed Stubbs is a secondary school teacher at Morpeth School in Tower Hamlets, east London, local to Queen Mary University of London. He wanted to create an educational programme after becoming concerned at a growing sense of fear among his students toward vaccinations, fuelled by miss-information and certain conspiracy theories.

He approached Professor Pennington and together they worked on a series of classroom resources aimed at local students to address their questions and concerns around the COVID-19 vaccine, and to provide reliable and scientifically based information about the nature and use of vaccines in general.

Professor Pennington said, "Rather than simply repeat the message that people should have a COVID-19 vaccine, we wanted to provide young people with readily accessible, accurate information about vaccines, from which they could make their own informed decisions".

The resources were posted online, and this attracted the interest of the Stephen Hawking Foundation. The team then developed the project further in collaboration with science writer and educator Dr Emily Grossman. The Foundation published the project online and it is now available for use globally.

On Monday 19 April, Ed Stubbs hosted an online question and answer session featuring a panel of expert immunology researchers from the Blizard Institute (all of which had worked on COVID-19 research projects). The panel comprised Professor Daniel Pennington, Dr Nital Sumaria, Dr Jason Lee, Dr Naheed Choudhry, Dr Neil McCarthy and Dr Louisa James. The session was an opportunity for the public to learn about how vaccines work, and to debunk myths surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations. The event was supported by the Centre for Public Engagement at Queen Mary.

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