Westminster Labour are calling for more action to be taken to protect schools and vaccination sites from pressure by anti-vaccine campaigners.
On Friday local residents reported that anti-vaccine campaigners had been protesting in front of the Vaccination Bus when it visited Maida Hill Market and outside Paddington Academy in North Westminster. Residents have previously reported anti-vax campaigners harassing the Vaccine Bus when it visited Paddington Recreation Ground recently.
While respecting people’s right to protest and to represent their views to those in power, even those like this with which we profoundly disagree with, campaigning must not intimidate children, teachers or parents outside their schools or harass vaccine workers and those seeking to protect themselves against COVID.
At a national level Labour have called for exclusion zones, modelled on the Public Spaces Protection Orders, already in place around certain abortion clinics, to be used outside schools. Almost eight in 10 schools said they had been targeted by anti-vaccine protesters in a recent survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) union.
Here in Westminster Labour are calling on the council to investigate what can be done using existing legal powers (including if appropriate PSPOs) outside schools and vaccination sites.
Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Public Health Cllr Nafsika Butler-Thalassis said “In Westminster we continue to have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and myths and misinformation are proving a barrier to helping make everyone safe. It is extremely important that we give our students and residents the best possible information about vaccinations and to ensure they can go about their study and work without being harassed.”
Labour Candidate for Queen’s Park Cara Sanquest said ‘Westminster must ensure residents can access healthcare without fear of intimidation, and that children can go to school in peace. Ealing Council’s use of a Public Space Protection Order to create an exclusion zone around an abortion clinic shows that it is possible for a local authority to push back on those seeking to intimidate residents. Schools, teachers, students and NHS vaccinators are under immense pressure and Westminster Council must do everything in its power to stop those targeting them.’