Anti-vax protests outside NI vaccination centres a ‘concern’, says head of NI’s roll-out

Anti-vaccine protests outside coronavirus vaccination centres in Northern Ireland have attracted the attention of the PSNI, the head of Northern Ireland’s vaccine roll-out has said.

By Niall Deeney
Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 1:18 pm
A vial of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine.  (Photo by Andy Buchanan - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
A vial of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine. (Photo by Andy Buchanan - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Patricia Donnelly, who leads the vaccination programme, said there is “particular concern” about the impact of myths around fertility that have been circulating on social media sites.

Speaking to the press earlier this week, she revealed that the PSNI have kept health authorities informed in advance of protests at vaccination centres.

“We have had a small number of anti-vax protests,” she said.

“We have worked closely with PSNI, who have been very supportive to us. They have alerted us where they know this might occur.”

She said It’s been small, but we are concerned about the impact.”

She said the misleading claims about fertility were of “particular concern”.

The health chief said: “We’re particularly concerned about the impact on younger women who, you know, are already maybe feeling a bit reluctant about coming forward for vaccination and are hesitant then about it.

“The Public Health Agency has developed some good information, and accurate information, about fertility. It is just something we have to be alert about, but it’s been very few.”

She continued: “But it hasn’t happened on the days where protesters have been campaigning at the vaccination centres - people have proceeded. No one has actually turned away on the basis of that. But we are alert.

“There are always bumps along the way. These are not significant bumps but we do pay attention to them.”

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives, organisations which represent medical professionals in those fields, recently issued statements relating to “misinformation circulating about the impact of Covid-19 vaccines on fertility”.

Dr Edward Morris, President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “We want to reassure women that there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility. Claims of any effect of Covid-19 vaccination on fertility are speculative and not supported by any data.

“There is​ ​no biologically plausible mechanism by which current vaccines would cause any impact on women’s fertility.”

Similarly, Professor Lucy Chappell, a consultant obstetrician specialising in women with medical problems in pregnancy, has stated: “I can see absolutely no basis for concerns about any of the Covid-19 vaccines that are licensed in the UK and fertility.”