zika imageThe Zika virus is linked to brain damage in unborn babies and is spreading rapidly through South America. The World Health Organisation declared it an international emergency. Scientists are working on a vaccine and will soon want to test it on people. The Dilemma for students is: would you test a Zika vaccine? They review the science of cells and weigh up the risks and benefits by examining different sources (a revised version of our popular Ebola activity).

Science objective

Cells: Make deductions about how medical treatments work based on cells, tissues, organs and systems (KS3 Science Syllabus)

Designed for the KS3 Science SyllabusEnquiry objective

Estimate risks: Weigh up the benefits and risks of an application of science to make a decision (KS3 Science Syllabus)

Try the activity

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Student opinions


Add extra interest by showing students how their views compare with peers around the world.
1) Ask students to vote for or against the dilemma question at the end of the activity
2) Click the option closest to how they voted – see the KEY below.

KEY: 80-100% = 24+ students in a class of 30, 60-79% = 18-23 students, 40-60% = 12-17 students, 20-39% = 6-11 students, 0-19% = 0-5 students

Running the activity

Engage Invitation to trial the vaccine
Review Students use their knowledge of cells, tissues, organs and systems to deduce how the vaccine works
Consider  Gathering information and weighing up risks and benefits
Decide Students write down what decision they made and how they made it

For detailed running notes, download the teachers guide.


Zika virus: what you need to know
Scroll down to the video which can be used in the Engage section of the lesson to give the students more information about the virus.

When will we have a zika vaccine?
Article which contains further information about the development of possible vaccines against zika

Study shows Zika ‘might cause’ Guillain-Barré syndrome
News story from the BBC about the possible link between Zika and neurological condition GBS

Zika Virus: What We Know (And What We Don’t)
Video summarising background information on Zika for teachers and older students


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  • harryle says:

    Highly relevant

    This can be modified to create a performance task where students present their side as a brochure or a poster.

  • mgirardi07 says:

    Zika virus

    It helped students to understand the impact on the world. The video increased discussion and everyone could join in. Grouped students with varying abilities and all interacted well and get involved.
    It’s helpful to be able to have a range of resources to use and develop with differing abilities. This topic got students to relate with current news and problems around the world.

  • minearazvan1991 says:


    Perioada de incubație este de 3-12 zile după înțepătura unui țânțar infectat. Majoritatea infecțiilor provocate de virusul Zika sunt asimptomatice (60-80%). În cazurile simptomatice, simptomele bolii sunt de obicei ușoare și dispar în 2-7 zile, fără decese.

  • minearazvan1991 says:


    În Europa nu s-a confirmat transmiterea virusului Zika prin țânțari, însă au fost semnalate mai multe cazuri de import de infecție cu acest virus în mai multe țări, inclusiv în România. Au existat doua cazuri in Romania.Perioada de incubație este de 3-12 zile după înțepătura unui țânțar infectat. Majoritatea infecțiilor provocate de virusul Zika sunt asimptomatice (60-80%). În cazurile simptomatice, simptomele bolii sunt de obicei ușoare și dispar în 2-7 zile, fără decese.

  • carrie says:


    This activity provides students the opportunity to vote on a real-life scenario as it is unfolding within the media. It will be interesting to watch this topic over the next few months as more babies born to exposed women are born and after the Rio Olympics how things/information changes.

  • thibbert1 says:


    Really impressed by this presentation, i can’t wait to use it!

  • hjones4 says:

    Good engaging lesson

    I used this for my y9 and 10 classes and they really enjoyed it. I thought the resources were well structured and it got my students to think about what they would do in this situation and discuss their opinions. I will add some further activities to lesson at the end of the lesson but really enjoyed teaching this session.

  • egarrote says:

    Excellent for my area of the world

    Great information for my students in my subtropical climate (we have just declared a Zika emergency). I love the discussion the lesson promotes. We have something called Argument Driven Instruction here, but I find the format more time consuming than these activities for my 12 year olds. Very well done and super teacher friendly.

  • n22565277 says:

    Year 9 Skills

    Added this to our Y9 schemes of work for the end of the year. Tested it with a middle y9 group and they loved it. Also added a QWC type question as an ELT

  • Working Scientifically

    Really happy to see resources that support the explicit teaching of skills like ‘discussing risk’, not just expecting students to learn these by osmosis! We adapted this for the Y9 GCSE scheme of work by adding a 6 mark exam question on risks and benefits, and peer-assessment at the end. Really happy with it.

  • ranjali says:


    I used this as I was teaching year 8 microbes and disease. They really enjoyed the visuals and the score card to identify the benefits and drawbacks of testing for a new vaccine.

  • gmitchell says:

    Great for Science week

    I have downloaded and adapted this to be used across school during form time as a Science week activity. Fantastic resource thank you.

  • zdavison says:

    a fabulous resource!

    thank you!!!