Lesson Plan: Distribution of a Coronavirus Vaccine

How Vaccines Work

Vanderbilt University preventative medicine and infectious disease professor Dr. William Schaffner discussed how vaccines are tested through clinical trials and how they work.


This lesson looks at the issues relating to the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine when a safe vaccine is developed and approved. This resource has students view video clips of policymakers, doctors and public health officials discussing the plans to distribute and promote a vaccine when one is available. Students will identify and analyze the various challenges facing the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine. From this, they will prioritize these challenges and come up with strategies for the government to distribute the vaccine.


  • WARM-UP:

    As a warm-up, have the students brainstorm answers to the following question:

    • What challenges might the government face when distributing a coronavirus vaccine?

    Review and discuss the students’ answers. To introduce students to how vaccines work and the challenges facing the public health officials, have them view the following video clips and answer the questions below.

    Students can also access all of these resources using the handout and Google Slides presentation linked below:

    Printable Handout: Coronavirus Vaccine Distribution (Google Doc)

    Digital Activities: Coronavirus Vaccine Distribution (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip: How Vaccines Work (2:49)

    • How do researchers test the effectiveness of vaccines once they are created?

    • What is meant by placebo?

    • How is a vaccine similar to the actual virus?

    • How does a vaccine “fake out” the immune system? How does this prevent viral infections?
  • Video Clip: How a Coronavirus Vaccine is Being Developed (2:30)

    • What challenges will the United States face early in the vaccine distribution process?

    • How does the level of investment in vaccine development compare to other countries around the world?

    After providing a basic understanding of how vaccines work and the challenges that the U.S. government might in distributing a vaccine, students will explore various perspectives on other factors that might impact how successful the distribution efforts are.

    Students will watch each of the following videos. Using either the handout or the Google Slides presentation, they will identify and explain specific challenges with vaccine distribution and possible strategies that the government can use to address these challenges.


    After reviewing the challenges and strategies, have the students develop a list of five strategies that the federal government should use when distributing a coronavirus vaccine. For each strategy, explain why this action would be effective using examples from the video clips.

  • WRAP-UP:

    As a wrap-up, have students discuss the following question as a class.

    • What is the federal government’s role in creating and distributing a coronavirus vaccine?

    Learning from the Polio Vaccine- View the video clip on the discovery of the polio vaccine (4:36). How does the creation and distribution of the polio vaccine compare to efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19? What lessons can be learned from the polio vaccine?

    Current Events- Using an internet search, find a recent news article about the development or distribution of the coronavirus vaccine. Identify and explain the following:

    • Summarize what is occurring in the article.

    • How does this article relate to the challenges discussed in the video clips?

    • How does this article relate to the strategies discussed in the video clips?

    • How is the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine an example of federalism?

    • What role does federal regulation play in creating and distributing a coronavirus vaccine?

    • How would you prioritize the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine?

Additional Resource


  • Antibodies
  • Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
  • Clinical Trial
  • Cold Chain Requirement
  • Correlate
  • Covid-19
  • Disinformation
  • Dose
  • Equitable
  • Exposure
  • Food And Drug Administration
  • Immune Response
  • Immunization
  • Infectious Disease
  • Infrastructure
  • Jurisdiction
  • Operation Warp Speed
  • Pandemic
  • Pharmaceutical Company
  • Placebo
  • Public Health Departments
  • Public Opinion Polling
  • Regulatory Oversight
  • Rural
  • Vaccine
  • Vaccines
  • Virus


Bureaucracy & RegulationFederalism and State IssuesHealth


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