NHS workers join ‘anti-vaxxer’ group that compares Pfizer jab to ‘poison’ and is opposed to masks

Matt Hancock has slammed more than 300 NHS workers and care home staff for joining an ‘anti-vaxxer’ group.

The Health Secretary branded Facebook page NHS Workers for Choice, No Restrictions for Declining a Vaccine ‘entirely inappropriate’.

Posts on the account compare the Pfizer jab to ‘poison’, some are opposed to wearing face coverings and others rail against testing in hospitals.

The group is reported to include Sheffield-based GP Julie Coffey – who has said she will not wear masks in shops – A&E nurses, healthcare assistants and lab workers.

But it has been slapped with a warning label telling people to visit the NHS website for advice on vaccinations.

It comes as anti-vaccine conspiracy theories are running rampant on social media sites – despite a promise by tech giants to halt their spread.

Meanwhile a survey found four out of five Britons want those who spread fake news about vaccines to face prosecution.

Hopes of another successful jab are soaring after scientists today began a trial to test it on 6,000 people in the UK.

In other coronavirus developments today: 

  • Boris Johnson insisted he can run the country by Zoom as he hit back at criticism of a maskless meeting with an infected Tory MP that has seen him self-isolate;
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed Britain is ‘working very closely’ with Pfizer to roll out the drug giant’s breakthrough vaccine from December;
  • Coronavirus was circulating in Italy as early as September 2019 – months before the disease was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a study suggests;
  • International flights between Australia and the UK will only resume when a vaccine starts being rolled out, Qantas boss Alan Joyce claimed;
  • Baby boomers who missed out on holidays, sport and seeing friends during lockdown ‘spent the money they saved on alcohol instead’. 
The Health Secretary (pictured today) branded Facebook page NHS Workers for Choice, No Restrictions for Declining a Vaccine 'entirely inappropriate'

The Health Secretary (pictured today) branded Facebook page NHS Workers for Choice, No Restrictions for Declining a Vaccine 'entirely inappropriate'

The Health Secretary (pictured today) branded Facebook page NHS Workers for Choice, No Restrictions for Declining a Vaccine ‘entirely inappropriate’

The group is reported to include Sheffield-based GP Julie Coffey (pictured), A&E nurses, healthcare assistants and lab workers

The group is reported to include Sheffield-based GP Julie Coffey (pictured), A&E nurses, healthcare assistants and lab workers

The group is reported to include Sheffield-based GP Julie Coffey (pictured), A&E nurses, healthcare assistants and lab workers

Pfizer and BioNTech have produced one of the world's leading candidates for a coronavirus vaccine and have become the first to report early results from their final study

Pfizer and BioNTech have produced one of the world's leading candidates for a coronavirus vaccine and have become the first to report early results from their final study

Pfizer and BioNTech have produced one of the world’s leading candidates for a coronavirus vaccine and have become the first to report early results from their final study

NHS Workers for Choice, No Restrictions for Declining a Vaccine is also against testing in hospitals and has surged in membership in the past month

NHS Workers for Choice, No Restrictions for Declining a Vaccine is also against testing in hospitals and has surged in membership in the past month

NHS Workers for Choice, No Restrictions for Declining a Vaccine is also against testing in hospitals and has surged in membership in the past month

The group (pictured) includes a doctor, A&E nurses, healthcare assistants and laboratory workers

The group (pictured) includes a doctor, A&E nurses, healthcare assistants and laboratory workers

The group (pictured) includes a doctor, A&E nurses, healthcare assistants and laboratory workers

Mr Hancock told Times Radio: ‘Being opposed to vaccinations where they have been through the rigorous safety processes is entirely inappropriate.

‘And I wouldn’t advise it for anybody, because we don’t propose, and allow vaccines in this country, unless they pass some of the most stringent safety requirements in the world.

‘Getting a vaccine – whether it’s for flu or hopefully for coronavirus – is something that not only protects you but protects the people around you. So it’s a really important step.’

The private Facebook group claims it was not started as an anti-vaxxer movement but was to help healthcare workers.

But a probe found members say the Pfizer vaccine, which has had positive initial results from its clinical trial, was ‘poison’ and a frozen virus waiting to be ‘unleashed’. 

A vaccine trial volunteer in Turkey receives a dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech jab at the end of October

A vaccine trial volunteer in Turkey receives a dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech jab at the end of October

A vaccine trial volunteer in Turkey receives a dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech jab at the end of October

The Facebook page has a warning label telling people to visit the NHS website for advice (pictured)

The Facebook page has a warning label telling people to visit the NHS website for advice (pictured)

The Facebook page has a warning label telling people to visit the NHS website for advice (pictured)

The group was started as 'NHS workers for choice, not restrictions for not wanting a vaccine' on October 4

The group was started as 'NHS workers for choice, not restrictions for not wanting a vaccine' on October 4

The group was started as ‘NHS workers for choice, not restrictions for not wanting a vaccine’ on October 4

The group was started as ‘NHS workers for choice, not restrictions for not wanting a vaccine’ on October 4.

But it changed its name to ‘NHS workers for choice, no restrictions for declining a vaccine’ on the same day. 

The admins are listed as William Steed, Linda Rose, Heather Atkinson and Aurora Cavarra.

They describe the page as: ‘A dedicated group for medical professionals etc to collectively keep freedom of choice an option and not to be hampered with any restrictions of doing so.’

A GP surgery worker who is part of the group said she would prefer to leave her job than help with administering a vaccine.

On the subject of healthcare workers being first to get any jab, the Times found one member wrote: ‘NHS staff gone — all sick and old will be gone.’

They added: ‘NHS gone. Population under reconstruction. Welcome to the new world order.’

Jeremy Corbyn’s brother, Sheffield-based GP and suspended nurse whose own son has distanced himself from her: Anti-vaxxers sowing doubt about a covid jab

Sheffield-based doctor Julie Coffey has claimed vaccines for the virus are prioritising speed over safety.

The GP, who works for Dovercourt Medical Practice, wrote on her website: ‘Although I’m a conventionally trained doctor and work as a GP, I love the natural health work I’m involved in now.

‘It’s hugely satisfying to help people reach better health naturally which sometimes enables them to chuck their pills away.’

She has also re-posted claims from anti-vaxxer groups on social media and says she avoids using a face covering in shops despite government guidelines.

Ms Coffey shared a video which argued Wuhan saw more Covid-19 deaths than other parts of China due to people there being tested for a Sars vaccine.

Jeremy Corbyn’s brother, a Sheffield-based GP and a suspended nurse are among those sowing seeds of doubt over vaccines.

Piers, who is the former Labour leader’s older brother, has been detained five times during the coronavirus pandemic which he brands a ‘plandemic’.

Piers Corbyn, who is the former Labour leader Jeremy's older brother, has been detained five times during the coronavirus pandemic which he brands a 'plandemic'

Piers Corbyn, who is the former Labour leader Jeremy's older brother, has been detained five times during the coronavirus pandemic which he brands a 'plandemic'

Piers Corbyn, who is the former Labour leader Jeremy’s older brother, has been detained five times during the coronavirus pandemic which he brands a ‘plandemic’

The 73-year-old claims Covid-19 is a ‘hoax’ and is the founder of a group called No New Normal.

He is close to footballer turned conspiracy theorist David Icke, who believes global events are decided by reptiles.

They have appeared at anti-lockdown marches and spoke on stage at one in Trafalgar Square in central London.

Piers told the Times: ‘This vaccine is experimental and the vaccine producers have no liability on sickness or death.

‘The whole thing is one of the main motives of the new world order [a conspiracy theory hypothesizing a secret totalitarian global government].

Mother-of-four Kate Shemirani, a former nurse of 35 years, is adamant coronavirus is a hoax and claimed its symptoms are linked to the roll-out of 5G.

Mother-of-four Kate Shemirani, a former nurse of 35 years, is adamant coronavirus is a hoax and claimed its symptoms are linked to the roll-out of 5G

Mother-of-four Kate Shemirani, a former nurse of 35 years, is adamant coronavirus is a hoax and claimed its symptoms are linked to the roll-out of 5G

Mother-of-four Kate Shemirani, a former nurse of 35 years, is adamant coronavirus is a hoax and claimed its symptoms are linked to the roll-out of 5G

She has argued the vaccine is a political tool to gain access to and change people’s DNA, has likened lockdown to the Holocaust and insisted dancing NHS nurses will ‘stand trial for genocide’.

She is a headliner at anti-lockdown rallies, having joined conspiracy theorists David Icke and Piers Corbyn at a protest in August.

She directed yobs to confront riot police whom she branded ‘dirty dogs’ and mocked for wearing face masks at a rally in September.

Her son Sebastian, 21, said he is concerned about the impact his mother’s claims could have on public health and branded her ‘dangerous’ and an ‘attention-seeker’.

Locum consultant surgeon Muhammad Iqbal Adil, was given a 12-month suspension by the GMC in July for posting videos about coronavirus online.

The 61-year-old dismissed Covid as a ‘hoax’ and, in a YouTube video which has since been removed, said a vaccine could be combined with electrical components to monitor the global population.

Locum consultant surgeon Muhammad Iqbal Adil, was given a 12-month suspension by the GMC in July for posting videos about coronavirus online

Locum consultant surgeon Muhammad Iqbal Adil, was given a 12-month suspension by the GMC in July for posting videos about coronavirus online

Locum consultant surgeon Muhammad Iqbal Adil, was given a 12-month suspension by the GMC in July for posting videos about coronavirus online

David Icke is the notorious conspiracy theorist who often makes headlines for his controversial comments.

Born in 1952, the 68-year-old former professional footballer has written more than 20 books and once tried his hand at punditry and sports reporting.

In 1991, he appeared on Sir Terry Wogan’s TV chat show where he declared himself as the son of God in a now-infamous clip which he describes as a ‘defining moment’.

It was from here that he began writing his books and making bold predictions including that the world would end in 1997.

Other bizarre claims he have made include that the royal family are lizards.

David Icke is the notorious conspiracy theorist who often makes headlines for his controversial comments

David Icke is the notorious conspiracy theorist who often makes headlines for his controversial comments

David Icke is the notorious conspiracy theorist who often makes headlines for his controversial comments

Icke also believes that an inter-dimensional race of reptilian beings called the Archons has hijacked the earth and is stopping humanity from realising its true potential.

The 68-year-old has said the universe is made up of ‘vibrational’ energy, and consists of an infinite number of dimensions that share the same space, just like television and radio frequencies, and that some people can tune their consciousness to other wavelengths. 

Most recently, he has suggested the coronavirus is linked to the 5G mobile network, a claim which has never been backed up by science. 

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Pfizer and BioNTech last week revealed initial results from a massive clinical trial suggested nine out of 10 people who get their jab are protected by it.

The UK could get 10million doses by Christmas – enough for five million Britons – with experts raising expectations life could be ‘back to normal’ by the spring.

Mr Hancock said on BBC Breakfast that Britain was working closely with the pharmaceutical giant to roll out the vaccine from the start of December.

The Health Secretary said the United Kingdom would be ready to deploy the jab ‘as soon as it comes’.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We’ll be ready from the first of December… but more likely is that we may be able to start rolling it out before Christmas.’

Asked how many vaccines Britain would need, he said it depended on how effective they were at preventing transmission.

Despite the boost, anti-vaccine conspiracy theories are running rampant on social media sites – even though tech giants promised to halt their spread.

Analysis shows online firms are failing to remove harmful posts and videos that pour scorn on the use of jabs to treat Covid-19.

Charities also warned exposure to misleading online posts could hinder efforts to roll out a vaccine in the months ahead.

Last Monday’s announcement of a breakthrough in the search for a vaccine triggered an immediate spike in misinformation, according to analysis.

Engagement in Facebook posts mentioning the vaccine and Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder at the centre of multiple conspiracies, more than trebled in 24 hours.

Facebook is also still running adverts for sites linked to banned conspiracy theorist David Icke despite agreeing a clampdown with ministers earlier this month.

A scaremongering video claiming the Pfizer vaccine is unsafe and could be forced on people was shared 5,000 times, racking up tens of thousands of views.

Another Covid vaccine breakthrough as Moderna reveals its jab is 94.5% effective

A second coronavirus vaccine has been proven to work as US pharmaceutical company Moderna today revealed its jab is 94.5 per cent effective – but the UK hasn’t bought any of it. 

Early results from the company’s final stage of clinical trials bring another landmark success in the global race to end the pandemic after Pfizer‘s vaccine, which works in the same way, was last week found to be 90 per cent effective.

Moderna’s results show that only five out of 95 people who tested positive in the study had been given the vaccine, compared to 90 who had not.

There are around 30,000 people in the study in total, each receiving two doses of the jab or a placebo.

And nobody in the vaccine group got seriously ill with Covid-19, compared to 11 in the placebo group, who were given a fake vaccine to compare against the real one.

The results suggest the vaccine significantly reduces the risk of people testing positive for coronavirus or getting sick with Covid-19.

But Britain has not secured early access to the vaccine, meaning it will not get any doses of the jab this year.

It may be able to buy some of the 500million to 1billion doses the firm plans to make in 2021, but no deal has yet been announced. An unnamed Whitehall source claimed the Government was ‘in advanced discussions’.

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The original video, which has been viewed almost 57,000 times on YouTube, was produced by The Mirror Project, a site created in May which peddles conspiracies.

Facebook has removed a page belonging to the group after being alerted to the video.

Earlier this month, Google, Facebook and Twitter agreed to help the Government to remove anti-vaccine propaganda and to stop users and companies profiting from anti-vaccine content.

But campaigners dismissed the new commitments as ‘meaningless’ and said most misinformation on the sites was still slipping through the net.

Imran Ahmed, of the non-profit company Center for Countering Digital Hate, said: ‘From the beginning of the pandemic, social media companies have failed to live up to their promises to act against anti-vaccine misinformation, despite warnings that it could curtail a Covid vaccine.’

Heidi Larson, director of the charity, said a small knock-on effect caused by conspiracy posts hinder the ability to achieve herd immunity through a vaccine, warning of ‘a tipping point’.

A Facebook spokesman said: ‘Since January when Covid-19 was declared a public health emergency we’ve taken aggressive steps to limit the spread of misinformation about the virus and connect people with reliable information.’

Four out of five people in the UK want those who spread fake news about vaccines to face prosecution.

A survey of 2,000 people by ORB International for the Sunday Telegraph found more than half believe a vaccine produced in record time can be safe.

Those questioned were more likely to respond positively when asked to take a vaccine to protect their friends and family than to safeguard themselves.

It follows growing concern conspiracy theories and lies peddled by so-called anti-vaxxers could hamper any mass rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine.

At the weekend Labour called for social media firms which fail to ‘stamp out dangerous anti-vaccine content’ to be subject to financial and criminal penalties.

In a letter to the Government, Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth and Jo Stevens say online groups with hundreds of thousands of members are churning out disinformation.

According to the Observer, they have offered to provide support for any vote in the Commons if the Government agrees to work with Labour on new legislation.

Hopes of another successful coronavirus vaccine are soaring after scientists today began a trial to test it on 6,000 people in the UK.

Under an early-access deal, Britain is promised 30million doses of the vaccine from pharmaceutical firm Janssen by the middle of next year.

The large trial to determine if the vaccine works aims to recruit around 6,000 people in the UK, from a total of 30,000 worldwide.

The vaccine from Janssen, owned by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, comes in two doses. A result on whether it works could be available in six months.

Hopes are high for more successful vaccines, following the announcement last week of the world’s first vaccine for Covid, following trial results from German biotech firm BioNtech Pictured: Scientist works on the Pfizer vaccine in St Louis, Missouri, US

Hopes are high for more successful vaccines, following the announcement last week of the world’s first vaccine for Covid, following trial results from German biotech firm BioNtech Pictured: Scientist works on the Pfizer vaccine in St Louis, Missouri, US

Hopes are high for more successful vaccines, following the announcement last week of the world’s first vaccine for Covid, following trial results from German biotech firm BioNtech Pictured: Scientist works on the Pfizer vaccine in St Louis, Missouri, US

Under an early-access deal, Britain is promised 30million doses of the vaccine from pharmaceutical firm Janssen by the middle of next year. Pictured: Scientists work on the Janssen jab in Belgium

Under an early-access deal, Britain is promised 30million doses of the vaccine from pharmaceutical firm Janssen by the middle of next year. Pictured: Scientists work on the Janssen jab in Belgium

Under an early-access deal, Britain is promised 30million doses of the vaccine from pharmaceutical firm Janssen by the middle of next year. Pictured: Scientists work on the Janssen jab in Belgium

Around 23,000 people in the UK have so far signed up to vaccine trials for the jab developed at Oxford University and one from US biotech firm Novavax.

So far, almost 318,000 people have indicated their willingness to take part in clinical studies by signing up to the NHS vaccine research registry.

The Government has deals securing early access to 350million doses of six vaccines, including the Janssen jab.

Hopes are high for more successful vaccines, following the announcement last week of the world’s first vaccine, after trial results from German biotech firm BioNtech.

Kate Bingham, chairman of the Government’s Vaccine Taskforce, said: ‘The recent news about progress on the search for a vaccine is enormously exciting, but we must not take our focus off continuing the important research to work out which vaccines work best for different people.’

SIX CONTENDERS IN THE RACE 

BIONTECH/PFIZER

This is the first coronavirus vaccine so far that has been shown to work, having been found to be 90 per cent effective in a trial of more than 43,000 people.

There are some concerns about the two-dose jab, because it needs to be largely kept in ultra-cold storage at around minus 70C.

But the interim results suggest it is one of the most successful vaccines ever developed. It uses genetic code in a fat droplet to instruct the body to make the coronavirus spike protein, which causes the body’s immune system to produce antibodies.

Ugur Sahin and his wife Oezlem are the brains behind the vaccine and the German couple’s company BioNTech is developing it with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The UK is promised ten million doses by the end of the year, and 30million next year. So far only hundreds of thousands have been produced.

OXFORD UNIVERSITY/ ASTRAZENECA

Results on this vaccine are hoped for this week. Up to 100million doses have been promised to the UK, and 13,000 British volunteers have taken part in global trials.

The vaccine uses a deactivated chimpanzee cold virus, containing genetic code which triggers cells to produce the spike protein on the outside of the coronavirus, so the body can recognise it and fight it off.

JANSSEN

An international trial of 30,000 people, including 6,000 in the UK, starts today, measuring the effectiveness of two vaccine doses. It works like the Oxford vaccine, but uses a common cold virus to deliver the genetic code which triggers cells to produce the spike protein of the coronavirus.

NOVAVAX VACCINE

The vaccine from US biotech firm Novavax began being tested in a UK study in September and has so far recruited 10,000 people.

The vaccine contains a synthesised copy of the coronavirus spike protein and a ‘booster’ to enhance the immune response. There are 60million doses promised to the UK, which it is hoped will be available by mid-2021.

VALNEVA

This is a traditional vaccine unlike the more innovative design from BioNtech. The immune system is safely exposed to an inactivated version of the coronavirus.

Up to 190million doses are promised to the UK, although it has not yet been tested on people. Up to 100million of those are set to be manufactured at the company’s facilities in Livingston, near Edinburgh. It is not expected to be available until late next year.

GSK/SANOFI

British drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline has reportedly already manufactured millions of doses of a ‘booster’ for three vaccines.

The firm is providing its adjuvant technology and has partnered with Sanofi, Medicago and Clover Pharmaceuticals. The first results on whether one of the three traditional protein-based vaccines work are expected in the first half of next year.

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