education

Exclusion zones could be put around schools to stop anti-vaxxers targeting kids


More than 100 pickets have been held at the school gates since children were offered the vaccine (Picture: EPA/Rex)

There are growing calls for ‘exclusion zones’ to be set up around schools so anti-vaccine campaigners can’t target children.

More than 100 pickets have been held at the school gates after the jabs were first offered to 12-15-year-olds earlier this year.

It is feared the protesters are spreading dangerous misinformation at a crucial period for the vaccine rollout.

The children are being told the jab is ‘deadly’ and could leave them infertile, an investigation by the Daily Mail found.

Labour has called for councils to be able to use exclusion orders to prevent harassment of staff and pupils by anti-vaxxers.

The party’s leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was ‘sickening’ that those against vaccinations were demonstrating at school gates.

It is thought current laws which allow councils to enforce Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) on certain locations are too cumbersome and can take weeks to set up.

But the Government is holding off from granting local authorities extra powers as the education secretary warned anyone found threatening children would be arrested.

Anti-vaccine groups have been active in the UK all year (Picture: Shutterstock)

Nadhim Zahawi said anti-vaccine protesters should not be going ‘anywhere near’ teachers or pupils, but said he was confident the police have the resources to deal with it.

Speaking to LBC on Monday morning, he said: ‘The anti-vaxx protesters should not be going anywhere near a school or a pupil or a parent or a teacher. If they do, the police will and can take action against them.

‘Local government, of course, are also working with schools … if anybody feels threatened by these anti-vaxx protesters, they should report them and they will be arrested.’

Mr Zahawi, however, implied he was not keen to introduce exclusion zones at school gates.

Children aged 12 to 15 have been offered Covid vaccines in the UK since September (Picture: Getty Images Europe)

He said local government ‘can have buffer zones’ outside schools and he would support those ‘if they deem it necessary’.

However, on exclusion zones generally, he said: ‘I’d rather have the police deal with it.’

‘The best way to deal with the anti-vaxx protesters, which is the way I have dealt with them since I became vaccines minister, is to…always make sure that we deliver the evidence and the data and be positive about vaccines,’ he said.

‘The moment you engage on their terms you give them that sort of space to operate and cut through. I [would] much rather marginalise them.’

School-aged children often have the highest infection rates (Picture: PA)

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has also lashed out at ‘idiots’ who mount anti-vaxx protests outside schools and suggested exclusion zones were an option to protect children at a local level.

PSPOs can be used to disperse people from a public area and have previously been used to move on protesters outside abortion clinics, or to allow police to confiscate alcohol in certain spaces.

Downing Street has said it is ‘never acceptable for anyone to pressurise or intimidate pupils, teachers or the wider school community’.

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