Demonstrators who targeted schoolchildren to spout anti-vaccine conspiracy theories as they left class were widely criticised yesterday, with youngsters urged to listen to the experts experts and not “cranks who feed each other on social media”.
Parents reported some of the protesters directly approaching pupils outside Lytham St Annes High School to falsely warn them of side-effects such as infertility if they took the Covid vaccine and police were called to keep order.
Following Thursday’s chaotic scenes, Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “I’m deeply disappointed that protesters have targeted the high school serving Lytham and St Annes
“Everyone has a right to their own view and to protest but children, parents and staff should not be put in such a difficult position. I do not wish to see these scenes repeated.”
One of the messages on a placard at the protest
Medical advice reiterated after anti-vacc protest outside Lytham St Annes High S…
Ansdell councillor Richard Redcliffe, a former headteacher of a neighbouring primary school, said: “Everyone has a right to free speech and I respect that everyone has opinions, but where and how these opinions are put across is extremely important and this was the wrong place, the wrong time and the wrong audience.
“Whether or not to have the vaccine is a decision for the children and their families to make.”
Another Ansdell member of Fylde Council, Coun Chris Dixon, said: “It’s absolutely appalling these people targeted not just our high school, but our pupils, teachers and parents.
“Everyone should take medical advice from the respected epidemiologists, doctors and scientists who have been battling diseases like Covid for years, and not from the cranks who feed each other on social media with their utterly ridiculous conspiracy theories.
“I hope we see no repeats of this imbecilic action.”
Coun Karen Buckley, leader of Fylde Council, said: “While people have the right to peacefully protest and express their views, this demonstration occurred at a very busy time of the day, which posed an additional safety risk to school children and staff, road users and other members of the public. Staff at Lytham St Annes High School managed the situation extremely well.”
Parent Claire Thomas, 42, said she was incensed after one protester approached her 11 year old daughter, Mia, and told her the vaccination might make her infertile.
Claire, a primary school teacher, said: “This protester went up to her and asked if she wanted babies, because the vaccine could make her infertile.
“It is a good job Mia is sensible and that she phoned me and I could tell her to just ignore it.
“I am all for people having the right to protest and being able to express their opinions, but not to camp outside a school and frighten children.”
The school’s headteacher Ray Baker said in a statement: “The majority of the protesters were harmlessly holding up placards, looking for support from passing drivers. Unfortunately, a couple of the protesters were targeting children with loud and intimidatory messages, creating conflict. The police were called. Staff were wonderful in helping to limit the impact of the minority.
“The location of the protest added increased risk to young people, with 1500 students exiting the school site along a single lane pavement. Whilst we respect the right to protest, the presence of extra adults and large signs presented increased challenge at the end of the school day.
“The school has shared information with parents throughout and has passed on the official information from the NHS. The school’s role in the process in minimal and we know that the offer of vaccination to 12-15 year olds is a personal choice, discussed by families. The school has made this clear to all parents and students.”
It is thanks to our loyal readers that we can continue to provide the trusted news, analysis and insight that matters to you. For unlimited access to our unrivalled local reporting, you can take out a subscription here and help support the work of our dedicated team of reporters.