Class Central is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

University of Pennsylvania


University of Pennsylvania via Coursera


In light of recent outbreaks of infectious diseases and new developments in immunizations, everyone from parents to policy-makers have questions about vaccines. What's actually in a vaccine? Are vaccines effective? Are they safe?  Should a society require that all citizens get certain vaccines?

In this course, Dr. Paul Offit will tackle these questions and more. We will explore the history, science, and debate behind vaccines.  We'll trace the development of vaccines over the past two and a half centuries, and describe methods for the attenuation of various viruses and bacteria. We'll discuss the benefits of vaccines in the United States and around the world, and we'll also explore the risks, both real and perceived, associated with vaccines. We'll look at how the media shapes the conversation about vaccines and some controversies that surround them, specifically that vaccines cause autism, multiple sclerosis, neurodevelopmental delays, diabetes or other chronic problems. The focus throughout the course will be on research and real-world examples and the discussion will conclude with an update on newly created vaccines and recent outbreaks of previously controlled diseases.

Dr. Offit is an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

For additional information about vaccines, the Vaccine Education Center, or its program for parents, called Parents PACK, please visit:


WEEK ONE: History of Vaccines An overview of the history of vaccines is covered in week one starting with the first vaccine, the vaccine for smallpox, and concluding with discussion of Recombinant DNA and Reassortant Viruses.
WEEK TWO: Schedules and Common Questions Current and alternate vaccine schedules are discussed as well as possible benefits and drawbacks of choosing an alternative schedule. The subject of vaccines raises many questions in various levels. "What are vaccines? Are they safe? Do they cause chronic illness?" These and other questions are also addressed in week two.
WEEK THREE: Vaccines and the MediaSuch topics as the media's role in medical education of the population, the power of popular anecdote over fact, and the purported link between MMR and Autism will be discussed all in relation to the role of vaccines in society. 
WEEK FOUR: Case Study - The Rotavirus Vaccine The rotavirus structure is discussed along with functional properties of rotavirus proteins. The risks and benefits of Rotasheild in the U.S. and in the developing world, and processes and results of Rotateq trials are also examined.
WEEK FIVE: Exemptions Various aspects and causes of vaccine exemptions are explored, including safety issues, tragedies, religious exemptions, and specific lawsuits. The consequences of exemptions, including breakdowns in herd immunity, are also discussed.
WEEK SIX: Recent Vaccines and Outbreaks The course concludes with an overview of newly created vaccines and recent outbreaks of previously controlled diseases.

Taught by

Paul Offit


Related Courses


4.5 rating, based on 2 reviews

Start your review of Vaccines

  • John Smith

    John Smith completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Great course. The professor goes over the history of vaccines and how they work. He also discusses the arguments made against vaccination in detail and provides you an excellent knowledge base for talking about such an important topic. The class is very fun and easy to follow (but don't think it's too basic or boring, it's not. I think this is a great course for anyone from any background)
  • Profile image for Sarah Norell
    Sarah Norell

    Sarah Norell completed this course.

Never Stop Learning!

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.

Sign up for free