During its first 20 years, the Vaccine Education Center (VEC) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, founded in 2000, became a trusted source of science-based information on vaccines, especially childhood vaccines. Pediatricians and parents had everything they needed to make wise decisions on vaccinations — when they needed the facts — by heading to vaccine.chop.edu.

Over the last two years, the rest of the country benefitted from all that knowledge and trust. When COVID-19 hit, the VEC was positioned to play an important role.

“The VEC was never so necessary,” says the VEC founder and Director Paul Offit, MD.

Providing Answers – and Reassurance – During the Pandemic

Dr. Offit and the small VEC staff jumped into action as they worked to help families navigate the difficult and uncertain time by providing information and answers so many were seeking.

viral vector thumbnail Viral vector Over the last two years, the VEC webpages were visited more than 7 million times, a threefold increase from 2018-2019. A COVID-19-vaccine-dedicated webpage, launched in July 2020, generated more than 1 million visits and hundreds of questions from the United States and 72 other countries. An article about the long-term side effects of COVID-19 vaccine from the VEC’s Parents PACK newsletter was viewed more than 1.3 million times. The VEC created almost 80 COVID-19-related videos that were viewed 1.7 million times on YouTube, and its Vaccine Makers Project animations about viruses, the immune system and vaccines garnered 2.3 million views on YouTube. The animations are geared toward children of different age groups and present information about vaccines in a way kids can understand.

In interviews and materials, Dr. Offit and the VEC team always related what was known at the moment, which included acknowledging the fact that the COVID-19 situation was evolving faster than the science could keep up.

Dr. Offit, a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), which is the group that reviews vaccine effectiveness research and makes recommendations to the FDA on new vaccines, was featured in more than 31,000 national and international news stories. This included media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Good Morning America, ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News.

One person wrote to the VEC: “You may not realize how a short spot on TV could possibly save someone’s life, but that is the way I see it. Thank you so much from my [100-year-old] mother and me!”

In addition to media appearances and serving on advisory committees, Dr. Offit also offered U.S. Congressional testimony in September 2020 and provided guidance to the U.S. Olympic Committee and Major League Baseball as they sought to protect their athletes.

Reaching out to vaccine-hesitant communities

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout hit barriers in some communities, the VEC answered the need.

It created a video series featuring CHOP colleagues from community groups initially resistant to vaccinations, including Black, Hispanic and Latinx, and young adults. The Latinx/Hispanic videos are available in Spanish. CHOP staff shared their experiences and decision-making related to COVID-19 vaccination.

Another video series included CHOP colleagues who cared for COVID-19-positive patients as well as outside collaborators from Families Fighting Flu and the PA Polio Survivors Network. Each of these three groups shared their unique perspectives on the importance of COVID-19 vaccination of young children.

When rare but severe side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine were discovered, the VEC developed and distributed infographics to help the public understand the relative risks of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) from vaccination and infection among teens and young adults.

Beyond the pandemic

mRNA thumbnail mRNA As COVID-19 ebbed and rose, the VEC continued its mission to close the gap between science and the public in areas unrelated to the pandemic, which included sparking an interest in science in children and youth.

The VEC’s ongoing classroom program, called the Vaccine Makers Project (VMP), saw updates to the high school lesson plan related to vaccine safety, focusing on how misinformation spreads on social media. The VMP team also created of a new short film about creativity in science, which premiered at the VEC’s annual celebration of the Hilleman essay contest winners.

It launched a new video series for students, called “A Look Inside the Lab,” to introduce students to common lab equipment, how it is used and the people who use it in an effort to position students to see themselves in the CHOP Research Institute staff interviewed in the videos.

As it has since its founding in 2000, the VEC continued its outreach to parents and physicians, providing updates and education on other vaccine-related topics as circumstances warranted.

What People are Saying About the VEC

“Thank you so much, you have no idea how concerning this all has been. I am so grateful that such a place as the Vaccine Education Center exists and that it is run by people of your caliber and integrity.”

“I just had to let you know how valuable all of the pieces you have on the website are, how they have helped me and many of my nurse colleagues. I love the cartoons you created to demonstrate how COVID vaccine is made and how it works among so many other things I use to answer questions I receive.”

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. … You took a severe concern off my heart. I will be fully vaccinated within the month. You were patient with me and my fears, please know you eased my mind.”

“Thank you for putting this article [on COVID-19 vaccine for 5-to-11-year-olds] together. This is one of the best, most succinct, most straight forward with consideration for facts and respect for vaccine hesitancy and I have seen. It is also important and very helpful that this is coming directly from a healthcare resource.”


Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.