Care staff targeted in vaccine misinformation campaign

Care home staff have been targeted in a 'despicable' misinformation campaign, according to First Minister and chief medical officer.

Care staff targeted in vaccine misinformation campaign Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon and her chief medical officer have attacked “targeted misinformation” campaigns which seek to persuade care home staff to avoid the coronavirus vaccine.

The First Minister urged all care staff to take up the vaccine when it was offered, while medical chiefs will be writing to all care home staff offering assurances about the jab.

It comes after trade body Scottish Care said many staff and managers had been targeted by anti-vaccination campaigners.

While nearly all care home residents have received their first vaccine jab, the number of staff has lagged behind.

Precise numbers of people refusing the vaccine have not yet been released, but more than 50% of care home staff have been vaccinated.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she had heard reports of “anti-vaxx forces” trying to discourage staff from taking the vaccine, adding: “I would really deprecate that kind of conduct.”

Officials are working with the care home industry to ensure any concerns are addressed, she said.

She continued: “My strong, strong, plea, advice, encouragement, exhortation – call it what you want – is to get the vaccine.”

The First Minister added: “As soon as I get the opportunity to get this vaccine, I’ll be there with my sleeves rolled up.”

Chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said: “One of the biggest dangers that we face just now is misinformation in relation to vaccination.

“When I hear about particularly targeted misinformation to any particular groups it makes me really concerned because it preys on people’s anxiety and fear.

“My plea to everyone is to read trusted sources of information in relation to the vaccination.”

Dr Smith said he would be writing to care home staff to allay any concerns over the vaccine, while he urged people to be aware of the risk of misinformation on social media.

Last week, Scottish Care said the majority of homes in Scotland had been targeted by a “concerted campaign” to discourage uptake of the vaccine.

Chief executive Dr Donald Macaskill said the campaign was “wholly despicable”.

On Monday, Dr Macaskill told the PA news agency: “We are pleased that there are signs that many more care staff are taking up the offer of the vaccine.

“Many care homes are reporting uptake over 90%.

“We know that this gives both individuals and their families, their colleagues and those they care for real protection.”

He continued: “We are dismayed that a concerted campaign has tried to undermine confidence but we believe that the professionalism of care staff will ensure that if they have any specific questions about the vaccine then they can access trusted sources of information.

“We cannot allow lies to take the place of truth, and to diminish the protection which the vaccines offer the care sector.”

More on