A leaflet spreading “dangerous” misinformation about coronavirus vaccines has been sent to homes in Wales.
The printed leaflet, which makes numerous false claims encouraging people to question the safety and efficacy of approved vaccines, were received by some residents in the Caerleon area of Newport this week.
Among the falsehoods included in the letter were claims that “the vaccine is experimental in children, pregnant women, and those with any health condition”.
The leaflet’s authors also encourage doubt by referring to the comparatively short period of time it took to develop and approve vaccines such as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. You can read all about how vaccines have been developed so quickly while others have taken years here.
Andy Johnston, from Caerleon, received one of the letters this week and said he is concerned the letter sought to target elderly people. “This thing was shoved through our door,” the 51-year-old said. “I guess to try and sow seeds of doubt in people’s minds that these vaccines aren’t safe and they are dangerous.
“The fact it is in print shows it’s clearly targeted to elderly people. It’s got enough on it for it to some on the face of it to be trustworthy.
“It gives links to videos by various people like Dr Simone Gold – who was one of the people who was charged with the insurrection on the US Capitol building. It gives it a veneer of respectability by citing sources.”
The letter which has been circulated
(Image: Andy Johnston)
Andy said he began looking for evidence of who produced the leaflet as soon as he received it. “What’s worrying is you can’t tell who has published this,” he said.
“It says it is ‘downloaded from Stopnewnormal.net’ but you don’t know if it has come from them really. I just find it incredibly dangerous. There is no balance here. In our street we have quite elderly people.”
Caerleon councillor Jason Hughes said he was aware some people in his ward had received the letter but was unsure of the scale. “Like all the disinformation put out there it’s just deeply worrying and concerning,” he said.
“There’s an essential message to get through to people that we must get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible and any other message is very dangerous to be honest.
“These people are being very irresponsible. It’s fine for people to have different views on things but it is so important we get the message out.”
Cllr Hughes said he has been advising his constituents to throw the material away if it turns up at their address. “I tell them not to even read it,” he said. “It has been cold recently so the most appropriate place for it is the fireplace really.”
Wales’ vaccination programme began with the arrival of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine early in December followed by the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at the beginning of January.
According to the latest data from Public Health Wales 807,351 people have now received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in Wales. Almost 13,000 have now received both doses of the vaccine.
Dr Gillian Richardson, the co-chair of the Covid-19 vaccine programme board in Wales, said in December that although side effects do occur they are extremely rare and usually minor. “As with any vaccine there are potential side effects,” Dr Richardson said.
“Usually they are a sore arm and occasionally a raised temperature but very serious side effects are extremely rare.
“And we know from the studies with the Pfizer vaccine that there are really good safety profiles including for the elderly and for those who have clinical conditions. So we are extremely pleased to be offering what we feel is a very safe vaccine to the Welsh population.”
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According to the Public Health Wales website: “Vaccines are safe, effective and save lives.
“Vaccines teach your immune system how to protect you from diseases. It’s much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the diseases and attempting to treat them.
“Vaccines can reduce or even eradicate some diseases if enough people are vaccinated. Since vaccines were introduced diseases like smallpox and polio that used to kill or disable millions of people are gone from the UK.
“The long term response to the pandemic requires a safe and effective vaccine to be available for all who need it.”