Sajid Javid slammed ‘idiot’ anti-vax campaigners for ‘spreading vicious lies’ outside secondary schools following reports three children had been left injured by demonstrators.
The health secretary described how the group of campaigners were ‘doing so much damage’ and it was becoming a ‘growing problem’ across the country.
The minister’s comments come as Labour’s Keir Starmer called for councils to be allowed to use exclusion orders to stop anti-vaccine activists from protesting outside schools and ‘spreading dangerous misinformation’.
Speaking to Kay Burley on Sky News Mr Javid said: ‘These people are doing so much damage.
Sajid Javid slammed anti-vax campaigners for ‘spreading vicious lies’ and described how the group of campaigners were ‘doing so much damage’
‘First of all here you have three children that are injured, actually physically injured, and that’s heart-breaking to see. Children going about what they should be doing, going to school every day, and you’ve got frankly these idiots outside their school spreading vicious lies.
‘It is becoming a growing problem as time goes by.’
Mr Javid went on to say that an exclusion zone was an option but other methods to tackle the campaigners should be done at a local level.
He continued: ‘There are options, in terms of whether it’s an exclusion zone, or other potential action, I think it’s got to be done at a local level with local police.
‘If you’ve injured children, that is a criminal act and I hope in that case police are able to track those people down.’
He added: ‘The Home Office quite rightly has been taking this very seriously as well and they’ve been helping with advice to schools as well.
‘We have a unit in the Home Office that will give advice directly to teachers about what they can do.
‘I think there is only so much that can be done at the end of the day you will still have people for example that are sending completely fake letters to parents.
‘They will be posting letters through parents doors, completely fake, with advice that is just based on lies and they’ve got to understand that if they don’t want the vaccine themselves at the end of the day that is their choice. No one is going to force them.
‘I think it’s a bad decision to make but that is their choice but they shouldn’t really be passing on these false vicious lies to ordinary people. Especially parents that are trying to do their very best to look after their children.’
During his interview the health secretary also warned he was ‘leaning towards’ making Covid vaccines mandatory for all NHS staff.
He said around seven per cent of healthcare workers — or 100,000 people — were still yet to be vaccinated.
The health secretary said that an exclusion zone was an option but other methods should be done at a local level
Labour’s Keir Starmer called for councils to be allowed to use exclusion orders to stop anti-vaccine activists from protesting outside schools
Demonstrators hold signs and banners as they march through London and protest against Covid-19 vaccinations for children
But he said that the ‘no jab, no job’ policy would boost uptake and protect patients which was something ministers took ‘very seriously’.
Covid vaccines are already a requirement for care home staff, with all expected to have got two doses by November 11.
But care homes warned they would have to either close or break the law to stick to the policy, with staff leaving the sector that already has too few employees
When asked about making jabs mandatory for NHS staff, Mr Javid said: ‘I’m leaning towards doing it.
‘There’s around 100,000 that are not (vaccinated in the NHS) at this point but what we saw with the care sector is that when we announced the policy… then we saw many more people come forward and do the right thing and get vaccinated.
‘That’s what I hope, if we can do the same thing with the NHS, we will see.’
Following the anti-vax demonstrations outside schools, home secretary Priti Patel said it was ‘completely unacceptable’ for anti-vaccination campaigners to be harassing members of the public outside school gates.
Meanwhile education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the ‘disgraceful actions of a small minority must be brought to an end’, The Daily Telegraph reports.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) revealed earlier this month that most of the schools surveyed by the union (79 per cent) had been targeted by anti-vaxxers.
It comes as Labour called for councils to be able to use exclusion orders to address harassment outside schools.
Sir Keir Starmer said it was ‘sickening’ that those against vaccinations were demonstrating at the school gates.
He said: ‘It is sickening that anti-vax protesters are spreading dangerous misinformation to children in protests outside of schools.
‘Labour believes the law around public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) urgently needs to be updated so that local authorities can rapidly create exclusion zones for anti-vax protests outside of schools.’
PSPOs can be used to disperse people from a public area and have previously been used to move on protesters outside abortion clinics, or to allow police to confiscate alcohol in certain spaces.
But gaining permission to impose one takes time and significant consultation, and Labour is calling for an expedited process in cases of preventing harassment and intimidation of children outside schools if agreed to by the school, the leader of the local council, and the local police chief constable.
The party said the PSPO could be in place within five days, and could be in place for six months.
The ASCL previously said that of the 526 responses from schools eligible for the Covid vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds, 13 per cent had reported seeing protesters immediately outside their school premises, and 20 per cent reported protesters in the local area.
Some 18 schools said protesters had gained access and protested inside the school premises, and 20 said they had received communications threatening physical harm to staff.
Most of the harassment by anti-vaxxers reported to ASCL had been through emails threatening legal action, though the association said staff had been threatened with physical harm while some protesters have gained access to school sites.
Last week a group of anti-vaxxers swooped on Buckinghamshire secondary schools and photographed pupils as they were bombarded with leaflets claiming ‘taking the #clotshot won’t save your granny’.
The mob targeted pupils as young as 11 at three secondary schools shouting that the Covid vaccine would also cause paralysis or give them autism.
Pupils were also ‘harassed’ with fliers that contained a QR code with a link to an anti-jab song, as well as warnings not to take the vaccine.
Police were called to the Sir William Borlase school in Marlow, while teaching staff had to intervene at The Beaconsfield School and the Amersham School.
The scenes came as children aged between 12 and 17 became eligible for Covid jabs as part of the latest vaccination programme.