Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said anti-vaxxers at school gates were idiots
Three children were recently injured in a protest outside a school while parents and teachers have been receiving letters with false information about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Exclusion zones around schools could be used to prevent "idiot" anti-vaxxers from targeting children with their "vicious lies", the health secretary has said.

Sajid Javid said the protesters are doing "so much damage" and it was "heartbreaking" that three children were injured during a recent protest after COVID-19 vaccines were opened up to 12-15-year-olds.

He told Sky News' Kay Burley: "You've got, frankly, these idiots outside their school spreading vicious lies. It is becoming a growing problem as time goes by."

Mr Javid added that there are "options" to deal with the protesters, including exclusion zones around schools "or other potential action" but he said it should be done at a local level.

Over the weekend, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the government to allow councils to use exclusion orders around schools.

On Monday he added it was important action was taken as uptake of the vaccine by 12-15-year-olds has been very slow and called for exclusion orders to be fast-tracked.

A total of 79% of schools in England have received emails threatening legal action for carrying out COVID-19 vaccinations on children and 13% have had protesters outside their gates, a poll by the Association of School and College Leaders found.

The headteacher of a top London school said they recently received an 18-page letter, also sent to other schools, which likened giving children the vaccine to a war crime and said the British public will demand "Nuremberg-style trials".

Mr Javid said local police have been "fantastic" at helping out schools but "only so much can be done" as "completely fake" letters are being sent to parents.

He said advice being posted to parents is "based on lies" and said if anti-vaxxers do not want the jab then "that's their choice, nobody's going to force them".

"I think it's a bad decision to make but that's their choice," he said.

"They shouldn't really be passing on these kinds of false, vicious lies to ordinary people, especially parents who are trying to do the very best for their children."

Children aged 12-15 started receiving the Pfizer vaccine in September in schools while online bookings opened up last week so parents can book an appointment for their children at vaccination centres.

They will only receive one dose, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Alix Culbertson is a political reporter for Sky News, covering events in British politics from Westminster. Follow her on Twitter @alixculbertson