Matt Hancock condemns NHS and care home workers who joined Facebook 'anti-vax group'

Watch: Matt Hancock admits there’s ‘more to do’ on anti-vax posts

Health secretary Matt Hancock has condemned the hundreds of NHS staff and care home workers who have joined an alleged anti-vax group on Facebook.

The group, “NHS Workers For Choice, No Restrictions For Declining A Vaccine”, has gained more than 300 members since it was set up on 4 October.

The Times reported that the closed group includes a GP, A&E nurses, healthcare assistants, lab workers and private and public care home staff.

While the group claims it is not anti-vaccine and wants to support healthcare staff, the newspaper said it found posts comparing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to “poison” and saying it would be “unleashed” on the world.

It reported that one group member, who works in a GP’s surgery, said they would rather resign than help with a vaccination programme.

One group member reportedly posted: “NHS staff gone - all sick and old will be gone. NHS gone. Population under reconstruction. Welcome to the new world order.”

On Monday, Hancock criticised the group, saying healthcare should be “guided by science”.

He 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.”

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock walks to 10 Downing Street in London, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Health secretary Matt Hancock has condemned healthcare workers who joined an anti-vax group. (AP)

He added: “The whole of medicine is the story of advances that are based on science and vaccines are one of the most important advances based on science in the history of medicine.

“And other than clean water have probably saved more lives than anything else in the history of humanity.

“That’s what the science tells us, and I think that we should be guided by that science.”

On Saturday, the Labour Party called for anti-vaccination content to be “stamped out” on social media.

It accused anti-vax groups with hundreds of thousands of members of “churning out misinformation”.

Doctor in protective gloves & workwear filling injection syringe with COVID-19 vaccine.
The government is hopeful a COVID-19 vaccine will be available in the UK next month. (Getty)

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called on the government to “urgently bring forward legislation that would include financial and criminal penalties for companies that fail to act to stamp out dangerous anti-vaccine content”.

A government spokesman said: “Letting vaccine disinformation spread unchecked could cost British lives.

“We take this issue extremely seriously and have secured a major commitment from Facebook, Twitter and Google to tackle it by not profiting from such material, and by responding to flagged content more swiftly.

“We continue to work closely with social media firms to promote authoritative sources of information so people have access to vaccine facts not fiction.”

In July, a survey revealed that a third of Britons wouldn’t take a coronavirus vaccine.

Watch: Can you catch coronavirus twice?

Coronavirus: what happened today
Click here to sign up to the latest news and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter