UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called opponents of vaccines “nuts” on Friday, when promoting the UK’s new Expanded Influenza Vaccination Programme.
“There’s all these anti-vaxxers now. They are nuts, they are nuts,” he exclaimed during a visit to a medical centre in London.
Johnson was speaking to promote moves by his government to expand its flu vaccination programme in response to fears that health services would be overwhelmed in the event of a new wave of infections with the new coronavirus.
“We want everybody to get a flu jab in the run-up to this winter,” Johnson told Sky News. “And that’s why we’re rolling out the biggest ever programme of flu immunisation.”
The vaccine will now be free of charge for people aged 50 and over, more vulnerable groups and young children. The stated goal is to vaccinate 30 million people.
According to a government-commissioned scientific study, a second wave of the new coronavirus this winter could cause up to 120,000 deaths in UK hospitals in a “reasonable worst-case scenario” without adequate preparation.
The study recommends implementing an information campaign with specific advice for frail people, increasing testing capacity and vaccinating at-risk people and health workers.
“The reason for doing this is to protect the NHS in the winter months because, obviously, we’ve still got Covid – we’ve still got the threat of a second spike of Covid, and it’s vital therefore to keep that pressure off the NHS by everybody getting a flu jab, and I really hope everybody will,” said the PM.
With more than 45,000 deaths, the United Kingdom is the European country most affected by the new coronavirus pandemic. Wearing a mask became compulsory in stores on Friday in England.
According to the UN, a vaccine is the only possible way to return to “normality”. But according to a recent YouGov poll, 16% of Britons would “probably” or “certainly” refuse such a vaccine, especially among those who inform themselves via social networks.
The anti-vaccine movement has gained ground in recent years, based in particular on misleading scientific studies linking vaccination and autism.