A few days ago, hundreds of protesters marched through Carlisle, a small English city, armed with megaphones, chants and yellow placards sporting slogans like ‘care homes are now prisons’ and ‘end jabs for children’.
While the rally itself was peaceful, there was a police presence following the protest on its route through the city centre, and it certainly attracted many curious onlookers- including me. Over recent months, the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in countries around the world has been subject to mass speculation- is it safe? Is it experimental?
It is secretly a micro chip used by the government to police public freedoms?
Although it is estimated that over 84,000 ‘deaths have been prevented by the vaccination programme’, protesters were adamant that the administering of jabs to children, pregnant women and teens would cause more harm than good. As a sixteen year old that has just booked her own first dose, protests like these conflict with any and all information we are taking in about the urgency of being vaccinated.
Social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are even supporting the vaccine rollout with filters, hashtags and campaigns supporting vaccination. Anti-vaxxers like the protesters I encountered would argue that these social media operations are forms of propaganda- that more widespread information on the dangers of the vaccine is necessary. So, how trustworthy is the covid-19 jab for under-18’s?
47 million Britons have received at least one dose of the vaccine so far, and an average of 41,000 doses are administered every day. The BBC reports that the ‘aim of the vaccination programme is to protect as many people as possible from serious illness.’
I had the opportunity to speak to one of the protesters handing out flyers, who wishes to remain anonymous. He stated that ‘the (vaccine) trials don’t finish until 2023…this illness does not affect young children, and they are going to be gambling with their health if they take this experiment.’
The protesters were ‘united under a common purpose’- sharing their opinions on the ‘loss of freedoms’, ‘lack of honest conversation from mainstream media’ and ‘lack of critical thinking’. Over the past few years, ‘anti vaxxers’ have risen in popularity- especially across the pond in the USA. With such controversy surrounding these beliefs, I asked a protester whether events like these somewhat sensationalised their anti-vaccine message; ‘we all want good health- we want to be on the right side of history, and you have to take sides on this.’
The crowd was adamant that they did not identify as ‘anti-vaxxers’, instead calling for vaccines to be limited to the elderly and at risk only. There were especially concerns for pregnant women and children having the Covid-19 jab. The NHS website states that ‘no safety concerns have been identified’ from having the Moderna, Pfizer or BioNTech vaccines.
So why then do these protesters believe the vaccine is harmful? The general consensus among academics and medical professionals is no, but I was told at the protest that numerous anti-vaccine doctors and professors had an arsenal of information that the general public needed to know.
Last year Dr Mike Yeadon a public and proud anti-vaxxer and ex vice president of Pfizer, co-authored a daring petition to halt the clinical trials of the Coronavirus vaccine, on the grounds that it ‘caused infertility’. A spokesperson for British Department of Health and Social Care responded that; 'These claims are false, dangerous and deeply irresponsible.'
VaxxTeen, a platform that advocates for vaccine information for teenagers (across all US states), encourages teens to get the covid jab as soon as possible, and aims to enable teenagers whose parents object to the vaccine to get jabs.
‘’I was just in awe, and I also realized how many barriers were in place,” founder Kelly Danielpour says, concerned about the emphasis on parents when it comes to the anti-vax movement; ‘ We don’t really think about kids having their own opinions on this, or being part of this conversation or having the potential to be the decision makers.’
When asked how the ideas of protesters fit in with Covid-19 guidelines, the protesters drew a ‘red line’ when it came to NHS policy around under-17’s and pregnant women. Their aim was to ‘urge caution’ only- the yellow flyers populating the city centre displayed the slogan; ‘Say no, Protect Your Child, Wait For Data’.
With a surge in these protests and conflicting information everywhere you look, it’s important to stay informed- for more information on vaccines for teens, check out;
(In the UK)