Anti-vaxxers are creating leaflets to look like official NHS documents and cartoon posters targeting children to share misinformation about Covid vaccines.
Posters are being shared on Telegram channels, with members urged to plaster posters around local areas or share them on social media.
Some anti-vax groups on the messaging service are mobilising people to visit areas around schools to approach teenagers to discuss vaccines and misinformation.
The move comes as the government prepares to make a decision about vaccinating 12-15-year-olds after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) refused to approve the move.
In one channel, an official-looking “advice leaflet” to spread disinformation about Covid-19 has been disseminated, an investigation by media non-profit the Citizens revealed.
Bearing the National Health Service (NHS) and Her Majesty’s (HM) government logos, the leaflet falsely advises that “children are not at risk from Covid” and that “Zinc, Vitamin D and Ivermectin” are effective treatments for the virus.
Designed as a shareable download, the leaflet not only poses as an official document, but the designer plans to share it among anti-vaxxers to print out and distribute in their local areas, analysis of the anti-vax ViVa Democracy UK channel by Citizens found.
Other posters with anti-vaccine messages are also being created with cartoon figures and designs to appeal to teenagers.
The brightly coloured posters contain QR codes which lead to disinformation websites, advising children against taking the vaccine and falsely claiming it to have caused death and blindness.
New images are regularly shared on the Telegram channels, with members urged to share them on social media and to print them out as posters.
One image contains cartoon figures with speech bubbles containing messages such as “the jab made my aunt go blind” and “they are all making billions from the jab”.
As the UK school term restarts across the country this week, underground anti-vax groups are also planning to take their protest to the children they believe they are saving.
One anti-vax group, Outreach Worldwide, has been organising trips to schools to spread misinformation about the Covid vaccine.
Schools in south east, west and north London have been targeted by the group and members have shared footage of them approaching pupils in school uniform.
In one video, a woman told students it is “safer to wait” as the vaccine is “still in clinical trials and is causing quite a lot of problems for young people”.
The group has been promoting a leaflet that claims the Covid vaccine is in clinical trials until 2023 and long-term side effects on fertility, for example, are “unknown”.
Trial completion dates are set in the future to ensure long-term monitoring of participants. Data from Phase III of vaccine trials have been published.
The UK’s medicines regulator has said there is no evidence to suggest Covid-19 vaccines affect the ability to have children. Meanwhile, real world data has suggested complications from Covid jabs for young people are extremely rare.
Meanwhile, it has been estimated 10s of thousands of children in the UK are suffering from long Covid.
It is not the first time anti-vaccine leaflets have been handed to school children, with media reports showing pupils targeted by campaigners over summer.
But campaigners are once again targeting pupils as scientists and ministers discuss the possibility of vaccines for 12 to 15 year olds.
The UK’s chief medical officers are currently reviewing the wider benefits of vaccinating this age group after the JCVI said it wanted to focus on the medically vulnerable rather than children.
This week, anti-vaxxers staged protests outside at least two schools in Kent, with police called on one occasion, according to local media.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “COVID-19 vaccines have saved more than 112,000 lives in England alone so far and are the best way to help us live safely with this virus.
“We encourage everybody to get their health information from official, trusted sources like the NHS website.”
This story was published in collaboration with media non-profit the Citizens
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