School anti-vax protestors urged to 'see sense and stop this nonsense'

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

School leaders are appealing – yet again – for anti-vaxxers to stop targeting children and staff amid new reports of legal and physical threats.

Eight in 10 secondary schools have been sent threatening emails since the roll-out of the 12 to 15-year-old vaccination programme began, with more than one in 10 seeing protestors outside the school gates.

In a minority of cases anti-vaxxers have gained access to school sites and in other incidents staff have received threats of physical harm.

The figures come from a survey of 526 schools carried out on October 13 and 14 by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

General secretary Geoff Barton said the protests were “at best incredibly unhelpful and at worst very distressing” and called upon anti-vaxxers to “stop this nonsense”.

The survey found that 79 per cent of the schools had received threatening communications from anti-vaxxers, mainly emails alleging liability for school leaders and threatening legal action. SecEd has already published an article debunking these baseless legal threats and advising schools on what to do if they receive them.

Furthermore, 13 per cent of the schools have seen protestors outside their gates, while 20 per cent reported protests taking place in their local area.

Worryingly, 18 of the schools in the survey said that protestors had gained access to the school site, while 20 reported that they had received communications threatening physical harm to staff.

It comes after anti-vaxxers have been sending a fake NHS vaccination consent form to schools. Using the NHS logo, the fake form contains a number of manipulated and false statistics about adverse reactions to the vaccine.

The fake form – which some schools mistakenly sent on to parents – falsely claims that there is a “one in 29,389 chance of dying” from the vaccine when in fact the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recorded, as of August, just nine deaths to which the vaccine was found to have contributed (five of which had the vaccine as the underlying cause).

Compared to this, the risk of dying of Covid if you are unvaccinated has been estimated at 0.8 per cent (35,000 deaths per five million) for all ages and the ONS says that at least 76 children have died with Covid as an underlying cause.

And this week, the latest data from the ONS Covid Infection Survey (published on October 15) shows that infection is now being driven by teenagers, with the percentage of people testing positive highest for those in years 7 to 11 (8.1 per cent).

As the number of student absences related to Covid increases and schools continue to face huge challenges with staff absence, the ASCL research laid bare the impact on teaching and learning.

Responses from 567 primary and secondary schools and colleges in England found that 95 per cent said teaching and learning had been hit by Covid absences this term, with 31 per cent saying the impact was severe.

Amid the challenges facing schools, Mr Barton is urging anti-vaxxers to stop harassing staff and students.

He said: “An additional difficulty is that on top of all of this schools are also having to deal with the activities of anti-vaccination campaigners. This is at best incredibly unhelpful and at worst very distressing and we appeal to those concerned to see sense and stop this nonsense.”

It comes as the current vaccination rate for 12 to 15-year-olds continues to stall with just 15 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds in England having had their jab. This compares to Scotland, which has vaccinated almost half of children in this age group.

The ASCL survey also found that vaccinations have taken place in just a third of schools so far (34 per cent) with 42 per cent reporting that vaccinations are not scheduled to take place in their school before the government’s target date of the October half-term.

Twenty-five per cent said the scheduled date for Covid vaccinations had been delayed for all or some students beyond the date they had been given by the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS).

It comes as secondary school students eligible for Covid-19 vaccination will be allowed to use public walk-in centres from half-term. The NHS confirmed the decision this week in a bid to speed up vaccine roll-out among 12 to 15-year-olds.

The move has been welcomed by the National Association of Head Teachers. James Bowen, its director of policy, said it was a “sensible move”. He added: “We know that there have been significant delays to the school-based approach and so it makes sense to allow those who want a vaccination to access one through their local centre.

“It also means that those who have missed out on a vaccination due to absence or having recently had the virus can get an alternative time slot booked. It’s important that the government continues to look to accelerate the school-based approach but this is a sensible addition.”


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