Norfolk schools targeted by ‘alarming’ hoax NHS vaccine letter
- Credit: Archant
Schools in Norfolk have been targeted by hoax Covid vaccine letters aimed at spreading misinformation.
Youngsters aged 12 to 15 are now eligible to receive a first dose of the Pfizer jab as part of a programme which began on September 20 and is being delivered primarily through sessions taking place in schools.
But some headteachers have reported receiving letters which include a "consent checklist", under a fake NHS logo, which they are asked to share with parents and students.
Among those schools sent the hoax letter were those in the St John the Baptist Multi-Academy Trust, which includes Notre Dame High School in Norwich.
“It looks like a checklist and appears very convincing but it is only when you read it in detail that you realise it is very clearly trying to project an anti-vax message,” said trust chief executive Brian Conway.
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“It is really subtle and it is quite shocking that you have people who will send stuff to schools that are a hoax and are trying to get a message out under false pretensions.
“It’s surreptitious and alarming.”
Controversy over the vaccination of under-16s has prompted concerns schools could be targeted by campaigners.
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The UK Health Security Agency said it was aware some schools have been receiving "misinformation" about the programme.
Official guidance suggests headteachers who believe protests could be held outside their school over should contact police to help manage the situation.
After a parent shared one of the hoax "checklists" on Twitter, NHS England medical director for Covid immunisation Dr Jonathan Leach replied: "Just to confirm that this is not a legitimate NHS form."
Mr Conway said: “As far as we are aware it has been sent to schools across Norfolk, most of the secondaries we think may have got it but none have fallen for it, though there are schools in other parts of the country where they did send it out.”
Former local head Geoff Barton, now general secretary of the ASCL headteachers union, said schools had again found themselves in the “eye of a storm” because of the strong views held by some people about vaccination.
“The role of schools is limited to hosting these sessions and dealing with associated communications, and it is quite wrong to make them the target of opposition,” he said.