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Coronavirus: ‘Sewer of anti-vaccine misinformation in Wales’

ANTI-vaccine misinformation is “a real threat” to efforts to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, says health minister Vaughan Gething, amid claims some key workers had been taken in by such false claims.

In the Senedd, Mr Gething condemned the “sewer of misinformation” being spread online via social media with the aim of convincing people to not get vaccinated against Covid-19.

But he said a wider ethical question over making the vaccine compulsory for some workers was “not straightforward”.

Plaid Cymru MS Rhun ap Iorwerth told the minister he had been contacted by a care home owner who had “a number of staff who don’t want to receive the vaccine”.

“They have believed some of the anti-vaccine mantra so prevalent in parts of social media,” Mr ap Iorwerth added.

Mr Gething replied that “there is a real concern about the level of misinformation and dishonesty in trying to dissuade people from having the vaccine, and a range of scare stories that are being promoted.

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“The concerns that have been given are a real threat to all of us,” he added.

Caroline Jones MS, of the Independent Alliance for Reform Group, said it is “concerning” to hear the allegations that some key workers refused to be vaccinated.

“While that is their right, we cannot allow their choices to put others at risk,” she said.

“Will you ensure that staff who choose not to get vaccinated are prevented from having face-to-face contact with vulnerable patients until the completion of the vaccination programme?” Ms Jones asked the minister.

In response, Mr Gething said making the vaccine compulsory for some workers was “rather more difficult”.

“That would, essentially, make the vaccine compulsory for front-line members of staff in health and social care,” he told the Senedd.

“It’s an issue we’re working through – with not just leaders in those areas but trade unions and others – about what the ethical interplay is between this, because there isn’t a requirement, a legal requirement, for people to take the vaccine.

“We do, then, need to think through what that means – and it’s not a straightforward point.”

Mr Gething added that this does not just apply to health and social care, and employers in all kinds of close-contact workplaces would currently be “thinking through what they’re going to do if people are not going to take the vaccine”.

“It’s a difficult question, where people will express a degree of keenness or reluctance to work with others,” he said.

“This is not straightforward in terms of people disclosing the form of treatment they have and haven’t had, and vaccination is very much part of it.”

“I think this is a debate that we’re a long way from concluding.”

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