The vaccines minister has promised to ‘look at anything we can do’ to protect staff at NHS Covid vaccination centres against ‘abhorrent’ abuse.
Nadim Zahawi was responding to a question from Labour MP Rupa Huq, who said she was deeply concerned by reports of a surge in threatening behaviour at Covid centres across the country.
Ms Huq asked Mr Zahawi if he agreed that, ‘at a time when worryingly we hear of increased threats to vaccination centres – be they from the vile anti-vax propagandists outside this building right now or even people so keen to get jabbed that they leave vaccinators feeling vulnerable – nobody should feel intimidated when seeking perfectly legal healthcare?’
And she asked the minister if there was ‘scope for investigating an offence of violence towards NHS professionals, whether verbal or physical, in such a setting’, bringing the law ‘into line with the Protect the Protectors legislation we already have for ambulance staff and the police’.
Responding to the question in the House of Commons earlier this week, Mr Zahawi said that ‘a senior responsible officer embedded in the vaccination deployment team looks seriously at security every single day’.
He also said that the Government would ‘not hesitate to take action against anyone who threatens any member of staff or volunteer taking part in the vaccination programme’.
And he added: ‘It abhorrent and completely wrong for anyone to intimidate people looking to get their vaccination, the incredible NHS staff delivering it, the volunteers or anyone else in the extraordinary mobilisation we have experienced of the nation coming together and delivering the largest vaccination programme in history.
‘I will look at anything we can do to continue to protect our frontline staff.’
The news comes as NHS England’s primary care director Dr Nikki Kanani had previously said she would ‘not stand for’ disruption by anti-vaccine protesters at Covid vaccination sites.
GP vaccination centres that have been targeted by anti-vaccination protests during the programme included the Alwoodley Medical Centre in Leeds, which was vandalised with anti-vaccine graffiti messages.
GP practices have also had to put up with abuse from patients who are anxious to get the Covid jab.