education

Schools sent hoax NHS vaccine ‘consent checklist’ containing false claims about risk of Covid jabs



Schools have been sent fake NHS “consent checklists” containing false or misleading messages on Covid vaccines and asked to distribute them to parents.

An NHS England director has confirmed they are not official documents, after headteachers and parents shared them online.

One headteacher told The Independent it was a “very convincing hoax” and said schools were “fed up” of dealing with threatening behaviour over Covid vaccines.

The Independent has previously reported on how anti-vaxxers have targeted schools with protests and legal threats as the roll-out of the Covid vaccine got underway for 12 to 15-year-olds.

Headteachers have now been sent a “consent checklist” with a fake NHS logo. NHS England medical director for Covid immunisation, Dr Jonathan Leach, has said it is “not a legitimate NHS form.”

The document makes various claims over the Covid vaccine, including that side-effects on fertility, for example, may not be known until clinical trials end in 2023 and the vaccine “may be considered experimental”.

Trial completion dates are set in the future to ensure long-term monitoring of participants, which is standard practice after a vaccine has been approved for use.

Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, has called claims the vaccine can make people infertile “a nasty scare story designed to frighten people”. “It is simply untrue and there is no shred of credible evidence to support the idea,” he added in a Q&A.

Schools have been asked to send the fake consent letter to parents before giving approval for their child to get the jab.

“This was a very convincing hoax,” Andy Byers, a headteacher in Durham who received the letter, told The Independent.

“The actions of those involved are totally irresponsible. They are deliberately misunderstanding the role that schools play in vaccine delivery,  threatening school leaders and staff and needlessly scaring parents by making false claims.”

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He added: “Whilst I understand that some parents may want to withhold consent for vaccinate their child, this should not extend beyond a simple personal decision.

“School leaders are fed up with dealing with threatening behaviour from parents or, as in this case, those with anti vaccination agenda. Our role is to teach students.”

After Mr Byers shared the fake letter on Twitter, he was met with numerous replies from headteachers elsewhere in England, from Essex to Bedfordshire, saying they had received the same one.

One such school leader called it “disgraceful”. Another said she had received six in a day, adding: “How dare these people use the noble NHS logo for their campaigns.”

Julie McCulloch from Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) urged the people behind the fake consent letters to stop sending them out.

“The circulation of fake consent forms is massively unhelpful and can only serve to create confusion,” she said.

“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.

Earlier in September, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it was aware some schools have been receiving campaign letters and emails with “misinformation” about the vaccine programme, following ministers allowing children aged 12 to 15 to get a first jab.

Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, reiterated on Monday that vaccination was not mandatory and remained a personal choice, but was critical of those who have abused and threatened school staff.

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson 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.”

They added: “The phenomenal vaccine rollout has built a wall of defence across the country, with over 123,100 lives saved and more than 230,000 hospitalisations prevented.”

Additional reporting by Press Association



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