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England’s chief medical officer has said anti-vaxxers who “peddle untruths” about the safety of the Covid-19 jab “should be ashamed” as the Government tries to boost national immunity before winter.
Professor Chris Whitty told a Downing Street press conference there are people with “strange beliefs” who make their own choices when it comes to vaccines.
He added “however strange that is a basic principle of medical ethics” that people be allowed to chose.
But he said those who try and prevent others from getting the potentially life-saving vaccine “should be ashamed” of themselves.
“There are also people who go around trying to discourage other people from taking a vaccine, which could be life-saving or prevent them from having life-changing injuries to themselves,” Prof Whitty said.
“Many of those people, I regret to say, I think know that they are peddling untruths, but they still do it.
“In my view, they should be ashamed.”
An estimated five million Britons who are eligible for a vaccine who have yet to have one, and experts says the best way to avoid future lockdowns is to persuade as many as possible to get a jab.
Prof Whitty was also asked about comments by rapper Nicki Minaj, who revealed she is not jabbed against the virus.
She provoked outcry on social media on Monday after sharing a story about a man who allegedly became impotent after being vaccinated.
Prof Whitty said: “There are a number of myths that fly around … some of which are just clearly ridiculous and some of which are clearly designed just to scare.
“That happens to be one of them.
“That is untrue.”
He said repeating myths in public “just gives them credence which they don’t need”.
“They’re untrue, full stop,” he added.
Prof Whitty has himself been targeted by anti-vaxxers.
In July this year a 24-year-old man was handed an eight-week sentence suspended for two years for assaulting him in St James’s Park following an anti-lockdown protest.
At Tuesday’s briefing, Prof Whitty also sought to debunk the myth that large numbers of young people are refusing the Covid-19 vaccine.
He said: “The great majority of people aged 16 to 29 have already taken up their first vaccine and are taking up their second.”
Responding to a question about the practicality of nightclubs being asked to check vaccination status, he said it was “completely untrue” that only a small number of young people have had a jab.