Anti-vax protests: Warning over fake NHS consent form

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

“This is outrageous. Under no circumstances is it ever acceptable to target teachers or the wider school community.”


New education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has promised to tackle the harassment of teachers and students by anti-vax protestors, slamming the “conspiracy theories” being touted by protestors outside schools.

As the vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds continues to roll-out, some schools are still seeing protests outside their gates, while letters continue to be sent to headteachers threatening severe legal consequences and telling them they have personal liability for the vaccine roll-out. Some schools have received abusive messages and even death threats.

Writing in Telegraph this week, Mr Zahawi said he will stand up for teachers and students and tackle the harassment “head on”. He adds: “Of course, no child is being forced to have the jab.”


Legal reassurance

It comes as SecEd this week published an article from legal expert Julia Green, an education partner at Browne Jacobson, debunking the bogus legal threats and claims contained in many of the letters schools have received.

While the fact that schools are not administering the vaccines nor involving themselves in assessing pupil competency to choose to have the jab against their parents’ wishes seems obvious to most, we published the article to help school leaders emphasise these points where needed.

Ms Green writes: “Here is the key, which the authors of these letters seem to have missed: schools do not administer vaccines. They are administered by the School Age Immunisation Service.

“The school does not give the vaccines nor make any contribution to the assessment of competency where parental consent is not forthcoming. It is difficult to see therefore how there is any rationale for trying to apply liability to the school.

“Some parents may argue that the simple fact of opening its doors as a centre is implicitly supporting the programme. However, many schools are used as polling stations, but it is a big leap to hold a school responsible for the MP that is returned there.”


Warning: More disinformation

In a disturbing development this week, schools have reported being sent bogus NHS consent forms.

Twitter is awash with reports of a “consent checklist” being emailed to schools from fake NHS email accounts. The checklist contains false information (such as the vaccine causing deafness, blindness, and cardiovascular disorders) and false and manipulated statistics about the vaccine.

However, there are concerns as some schools seem to have sent the form onto students without checking its contents. The form uses a fake NHS logo which has tricked a number of headteachers.

One Twitter user said: “My school was 10 seconds away from sending the fake Covid consent form to 2,000 parents – fortunately I alerted the office in time.”

The Department for Education has written to schools warning them of the fake form, directing them to the official consent form, and urging headteachers to contact their School Age Immunisation Service if they have any doubts.


Fake form: This is a section of the fake NHS consent checklist that has been sent to
schools by anti-vaxxers. The DfE is warning headteachers not to circulate this
misinformation and if in doubt to check with their School Age Immunisation Service


No child is being forced to have the jab

In his article this week, Mr Zahawi said schools had gone “above and beyond” to support the School Age Immunisation Service to deliver the vaccine programme but emphasises that no child is being forced to have the jab.

He said: “(Schools) are providing the right information from the health service to make sure children, parents and carers can make an informed decision.

“Of course, no child is being forced to have the jab. It is a personal medical choice for children and parents or carers to discuss, and we trust them to do so – and no one should be stigmatised for their decision.

“A small minority has spread conspiracy theories and campaigned outside schools, targeting teachers and even pupils. This is outrageous. Under no circumstances is it ever acceptable to target teachers or the wider school community.

“I want teachers and students to know that I will always stand up for them and tackle harassment head on, so teachers can do their vital jobs safely and children can get the education they deserve – regardless of choices made over vaccination.

“I urge everyone to get behind our teachers and the wider school community and show them how much we appreciate their boundless commitment to keeping our schools open and our children safe.”


Guidance for schools

In her article, Ms Green does warn schools that they should ensure they take a neutral position as students and families decide whether to have the vaccine.

She writes: “Where a school needs to be careful is the language it uses to the students about the choices they are being asked to make. It is sensible to make literature available to students and to refer them to organisations that can give them more information, but it is important that the school remains neutral and makes clear that this is a matter for individual choice.

“Schools need to be careful that there is no opportunity for peer pressure or bullying between students and to ensure that there is an openness and balance to any comments that are made.”

On the protests, the European Convention of Human Rights protects the right to peaceful protest. However, police can restrict or prohibit protests that threaten to cause disruption. Police will also respond to protests that obstruct highways.

The government guidance for schools (UKHSA, 2021) states: “Schools should already have a security policy, based on a security risk assessment. This process is covered in published guidance on school and college security. In the event of a protest or disruptive activity outside a school, or if schools know a protest is planned, they should alert the SAIS provider, local authority and police contacts to discuss the best way to manage the situation.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has welcomed government efforts in the past week to make clear that schools are not involved in administering vaccines.

“We are pleased to see that the government has made it very clear that while vaccination teams might make use of school buildings, the responsibility, including legal responsibility, for delivering jabs, will sit entirely with the appropriate medical teams. This should help keep disruption in schools to a minimum.

"It’s very important that families now direct any questions or concerns to the vaccination teams via the number provided so that school leaders can focus on the education of pupils. Pupils have endured enough disruption to their education in recent months, so there is absolutely no place for angry protests outside school gates.”


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