Several schools in England have unwittingly distributed a hoax message about Covid vaccinations for children that the Department for Health and Social Care has condemned as “dangerous” misinformation.
Schools in East Anglia, Bedfordshire and elsewhere across England were tricked into sending out an official-looking form carrying an NHS logo and claiming to be a “consent checklist” ahead of their child receiving a Covid inoculation.
One school leader said the form arrived on Monday morning as an attachment to an email purporting to be from the NHS, with a request that it be forwarded to parents. It is not known where the email originated.
The emails were sent from a “Childhood Vaccines Team” using an email address ending in @nhs-vaccines.uk. The domain linked to the address was later suspended after complaints to the web host.
A spokesperson for the DHSC said: “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.”
Schools that sent out the hoax form quickly retracted the email after being alerted by parents and staff members.
Redborne Upper School and Community College in Bedfordshire apologised to parents for any confusion after falling for the hoax letter.
“This is not from the NHS and is believed to be from a group wishing to disrupt the vaccination programme,” parents were told in a letter from the headteacher.
Brian Conway, chief executive of the St John the Baptist multi-academy trust in Norwich, said the form appeared to be “very convincing,” after it was sent to parents at one of the trust’s schools.
“It is quite shocking that you have people who will send stuff to schools that are a hoax and are trying to get a message out under false pretensions,” Conway told the Eastern Daily Press.
Dr Jonathan Leach, NHS England’s medical director for Covid vaccinations, went on social media to assure parents that the form was fake.
Julie McCulloch of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The circulation of fake consent forms is massively unhelpful and can only serve to create confusion.
“Everybody in the school system is already working under huge pressure on multiple fronts. One of these pressures is the fact that a large number of pupils have caught Covid and are absent from school – the very thing that the vaccination programme is designed to address.”
The UK’s chief medical officers have recommended that children aged 12 and over should be offered a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Children in England have already begun receiving the vaccine through the NHS’s school-aged immunisation teams.