For a long time, it has been widely assumed by most people in authority that vaccines are unquestionably ‘a good thing’. Too often it has been presumed that those who hesitate about vaccines or reject them are either stupid or selfish. This approach fails for two reasons, first, on instrumental grounds – treating people as ill-informed or selfish is not particularly conducive to getting them to change their mind – and, secondly, because it is intrinsically disrespectful to people. COVID-19 and earlier reactions to vaccination health scares show how important high-quality education about vaccines is. I consider what the aims of teaching and communicating about vaccination should be, and at the lessons that controversies over vaccination have for school science education and for science communication more generally.