By Maria Gilani, BA Global Development and International Relations
From September 2021, the UK’s school-based Covid-19 vaccination programme began offering the first dose of the vaccine to 12–15-year-olds with parental consent. The programme was widely acknowledged and appreciated by pupils and parents nationwide due to the role of the vaccine in providing immunity against the virus, making schools safer and decreasing the likelihood of another lockdown.
However, the vaccination programme was met with opposition by the UK’s anti-vaxxer population who objected to the government’s latest rollout. This is due to children’s inability to give consent for themselves and that the vaccine is dangerous and experimental.
“Anti-vaxxers are being reported for targeting and intimidating school-aged children trying to receive the vaccine.”
Across the UK, anti-vaxxers are being reported for targeting and intimidating school-aged children trying to receive the vaccine. According to the BBC in an article published on 9 October, Grace Baker-Earle (15) and her mother Angela Baker-Earle (44) from Cardiff were victims of verbal abuse from anti-vaxxers when entering Cardiff’s Bayside vaccination centre. The protestors singled out Angela accusing her of using her daughter as a ‘lab rat’ and calling the pair’s decision to get vaccinated ‘ridiculous.’
The BBC also reported that Ms Barker-Earle described the incident as ‘incredibly unpleasant’ and ‘intimidating’, as protestors even surrounded her car as she tried to leave the centre with her daughter. Southern Wales Police were called to the area in response to keep anti-vaxxers from harassing other members of the public.
Similarly, as reported in the Evening Standard on 24 September, police were called in to a school in Nottingham where anti-vax campaigners became increasingly threatening. Chilwell School’s Headmaster, David Phillips, reported protestors setting up in the school car park and leafleting the school’s pupils in an effort to stop them from accepting the vaccination jab.
The Evening Standard published that teachers at the school also received threatening emails and voice messages in regard to the vaccination of children in the school. A campaigner even entered the school reception and served a mock cease and desist letter as an expression of protest.
The parliamentary under-secretary of the Department for Education’s (DfE) Alex Burghart responded to recent events calling the protestors’ behaviour ‘abhorrent’ and urging targeted schools to contact the DfE so that such issues could be ‘followed up.’ Maggie Throup, vaccine minister, also responded saying school’s shouldn’t ‘be afraid to speak to the police if they face intimidation.’
Health ministers continue to urge the public to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Vaccine hesitant individuals can find more information about immunisation on the NHS website and at GOV.UK.
Photo Caption: Anti-Vaccine protest in Sheffield, UK (Credit: Tim Dennell).