Protesters Have Taken to the Streets Across Western Europe to Protest Covid-19 Vaccination Requirements
More than 100,000 people have rallied in France alone to oppose what they call the government’s plans to restrict the rights of the unvaccinated. In the French capital, Paris, protesters – many of them unmasked – braved the cold and the rain on Saturday, carrying placards that read “Truth”, “Freedom” and “No to vaccine pass”. In Germany, protesters rallied in several cities on Saturday, with the largest event held in Hamburg, where some 16,000 people attended, according to the police. The protest was held under the banner “Enough! Hands off our children”.
Protests also took place in Italy, with hundreds of people in the city of Turin protesting against rules that make vaccines mandatory for anyone over the age of 50. Tougher laws are also coming into force for others: From Monday, those who are unvaccinated can no longer use public transport or visit restaurants. The UK is also not lagging behind.
Scientists Call for Immediate Rollout of Covid Jab for UK Primary School Children
Given the new Covid variants, the call comes as data shows 2- to 11-year-olds currently have the highest rate of infections. According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, 2- to 11-year-olds have the highest rate of infections of any age group in the UK with 4.2% testing positive during the week ending 5 March. Secondary-school-age children (up to 11 years) have the lowest rate of infections, with 2.4% testing positive. Positivity rates increased for all age groups in England in the week ending 19 March 2022. The rates were highest for children aged 2 years to school-age 6 (8.33%) and lowest for those in school aged 7 to 11 years (4.74%). The positivity rates for those aged between 50 and 69 years (5.62%) and those aged 70 years and over (5.01%) were the highest since the survey began.
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) approved the vaccination of healthy 5- to 11-year-olds on 16 February. At the time, Sajid Javid said the NHS would prepare to extend this “non-urgent” vaccination offer to all children during April “to increase protection against potential future waves of Covid-19”. But parents are still unable to book an appointment, and it is unclear how vaccines will be delivered to this age group.
Russell Viner, a professor of child and adolescent health at University College London, said while there were pragmatic and technical challenges associated with the mass vaccination of younger children, these issues should have been overcome by now. “I do believe there’s an argument to get on with this,” he said. “The medical arguments are marginal for children, but once the decision has been made that the vaccine is safe, has some effectiveness, and on balance, parents should be able to opt in for their children if they so wish, there’s an equity argument to say that the system now needs to deliver that for children.”
Meanwhile, Nadhim Zahawi, Secretary of State for Education of the United Kingdom, has revealed that around 200,000 children are currently off school due to Covid-19.
The education secretary admitted the figures had “ticked up” because infection rates are high. Covid-19 cases soared by a million in a week, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.
It comes after children across the UK missed out on months of work due to school closures during the pandemic. The number of Covid-19 infections soared to 4.26 million in the seven days to 19 March, according to published figures. They were up 29.7% in the previous week. This is just short of the 4.3 million in the first week of 2022, which was the highest total since estimates began. Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to US President Joe Biden, said the world “needs to keep an eye” on whether the new Omicron BA.2 variant is leading to increased hospital admissions.
UK Anti-Vaccination Networks Gearing Up to Respond with Extreme Action
These groups are on a mission to “Save the Children’’ by sending out disinformation leaflets and emails containing fake NHS vaccine advice, storming schools and discussing ways to fake a Covid test so their child can avoid both the vaccine and quarantine. The ideologies of the vast network of anti-vaccination groups congregating on messaging app Telegram vary from followers of former Pfizer scientist Michael Yeadon, to people whose views come straight from the QAnon conspiracy network. The earliest use of “Save the Children” as a campaign slogan comes directly from QAnon, an antisemitic conspiracy theory which posits that an “elite cabal” of celebrities are trafficking children in order to harvest their blood.
In times of uncertainty, people often seek out information to help alleviate fear, possibly leaving them vulnerable to false information. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we attended to a viral spread of incorrect and misleading information that compromised collective actions and public health measures to contain the spread of the disease. We investigated the influence of the Covid-19 fear on social and cognitive factors including believing in fake news, bullshit receptivity, overclaiming, and problem-solving.
When Carl Bergstrom, a theoretical and evolutionary biologist and a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, worked on plans to prepare the United States for a hypothetical pandemic in the early 2000s, he and his colleagues were worried vaccines might not get to those who needed them most. “We thought the problem would be to keep people from putting up barricades and stopping the truck and taking all the vaccines off it, giving them to each other,” he recalls. When Covid-19 arrived, things played out quite differently. One-quarter of US adults remain unvaccinated against a virus that has killed more than 1 million Americans. “Our ability to convince people that this was a vaccine that was going to save a lot of lives and that everyone needed to take was much, much worse than most of us imagined,” Bergstrom says.
Efforts have been made in this regard, according to the WHO website. The United Kingdom and WHO collaborate to manage the infodemic, which means acting on the wrong information can kill. In the first three months of 2020, nearly 6,000 people around the globe were hospitalised because of coronavirus misinformation, recent research suggests. During this period, researchers say at least 800 people may have died due to misinformation related to Covid-19. “Public trust in science and evidence is essential for overcoming Covid-19,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Therefore, finding solutions to the infodemic is as vital for saving lives from COVID-19 as public health measures, like mask-wearing and hand hygiene, to equitable access to vaccines, treatments and diagnostics.”
The WHO described the phenomenon as an “infodemic”—a pandemic spread of misinformation. The European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, dedicated a message to the world pledging that humanity is fighting not only against the virus but also against the surge of misinformation attempting to create large-scale social, political and economic unrests. The Vox described this false spread of information during pandemics in the article “The long, strange history of anti-vaccination movements: Here’s what the past can tell us about the future of the pandemic.” As a result, the misinformation about Covid vaccines does not seem to be limited to Britain. Those leaders and political groups who fuel this misinformation while aiming for political interests more than spreading false info, comments such as Trump’s suggestion that disinfectants could be used to treat the coronavirus, resistance to wearing masks, or disregarding the necessary quarantines, could all cost lives.