Health Secretary Sajid Javid's comments were made during an interview with Sky News yesterday, in which he accused anti-vax protestors of propagating “vicious lies”.
Commenting on media reports that several children had been injured during anti-vaxxer protests, he said: “These people are doing so much damage… Here you have three children that are injured, actually physically injured, and that's heartbreaking to see – children going about what they should be doing, going to school every day, and you've got, frankly, these idiots outside their school spreading vicious lies.”
And he backed calls by Labour for councils to be allowed to use exclusion orders to prevent harassment of schoolchildren and teachers by anti-vaxxers outside schools. "In terms of whether it's an exclusion zone, or other potential action, I think it's got to be done at a local level,” he said.
Responding to the Health Secretary’s remarks, a Government spokesperson told PRWeek: “Misinformation about the vaccine is dangerous and costs lives. We are continuing to do everything we can, working with local authorities and our NHS, to counter the spread of untruths with public information that is grounded in science and facts.”
They echoed Javid’s condemnation of protests outside schools. “It is never acceptable for anyone to pressurise or intimidate pupils, teachers or the wider school community, and protestors engaging in this type of behaviour should immediately bring it to an end.”
And they pledged that there are “tough new laws coming” that will “force” social media companies to take action against “dangerous disinformation”.
This comes against a backdrop of mounting problems outside schools that are being targeted by anti-vaxxers protesting against the vaccination of children.
Eighteen schools have reported problems with protesters who have managed to get inside school premises, and 20 have had physical threats made against staff, according to the Association of School and College Leaders.
David Phillips, head of Chilwell School in Beeston, Nottingham, had to call the police last month after threats were made against him and his staff and an “unwelcome visitor” got into the school.
And earlier this month anti-vaxxers confronted pupils outside Saint Thomas More Catholic School in Blaydon, Gateshead, with images of what appeared to be dead children.
In another recent incident, an anti-vax protester was reported to have grabbed an 14-year-old pupil outside the Long Eaton School in Derbyshire and screamed at him that the Covid-19 jab would “make you infertile”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "It is sickening that anti-vax protesters are spreading dangerous misinformation to children in protests outside of schools.
“Labour believes the law around public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) urgently needs to be updated so that local authorities can rapidly create exclusion zones for anti-vax protests outside of schools."
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