LONDON (AFP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday described people opposed to vaccinations as “nuts”, as he promoted the government’s expanded programme of flu jabs.
“There’s all these anti-vaxxers now. They are nuts, they are nuts,” he said as he toured a medical centre in east London.
Johnson’s government widened its winter flu vaccination programme, given fears that combined with a second wave of coronavirus infections, health services could be overwhelmed.
The vaccine will be free for the most vulnerable groups, including older people, those with underlying conditions, and younger children.
The Department of Health aims to vaccinate more than 30 million when the programme gets under way later this year, it said in a statement.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock called it “the biggest flu vaccination programme in history, and will help protect our NHS (National Health Service) as we head into winter”.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said vaccination was a way of helping reduce “all avoidable risks”, with coronavirus still circulating, and no vaccine yet available.
Experts commissioned by the government’s chief scientific officer warned that if no action was taken now, nearly 120,000 people could die in hospitals alone in a second wave.
The government is preparing for the possibility, and yesterday the wearing of face masks became compulsory in shops across England.
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the top 10 global health threats in tackling preventable diseases.