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No legal basis for anti-vaxxers’ nonsense

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No legal basis for anti-vaxxers’ nonsense

Anti-vaccination sentiment across the UK is very real and anti-vaxxers often claim a legal basis for their actions, says Terry Maguire
 

Just as calm is slowly being restored to the pharmacy network after 20 long months of Covid-inspired chaos, a new and potentially serious threat has emerged. A video appeared recently on social media of an anti-vaxxer group “serving” a pharmacy in West Belfast.

The video begins outside the pharmacy where a man holding paperwork and wearing a hi-vis jacket discusses strategy and tactics with a woman who is holding the camera at an acute angle so that their faces cannot be identified. All the time a delightful child of about eight, and who seems to be the couple’s daughter, skips around and between them.

Her face is unfortunately all too clear and identifiable. The man is heard saying that he is going to “serve” the pharmacy and states there will be “no harsh words” and “it will always be within honour”.

Entering the pharmacy, the man approaches the counter, asks if the pharmacy still provides the booster jab and when this is confirmed he hands the bemused counter-assistant an envelope telling her she has been “served”. He then explains that the pharmacy is guilty of “potential genocide”, and he is there to protect “our peoples and our communities”. He informs the assistant that the action is being videoed but, as they are good people, faces will not be shown.

When the staff behind the counter are heard sniggering, they are admonished about the damage the pharmacy is doing and he confirms that “every one of those vials is a potential crime”.

The man briefly explains the content of the letter, says he will return the next day and if the pharmacy persists in providing vaccination services, the police will be informed, If the police fail to act, he says he will confiscate the vials himself as part of a “citizen’s arrest”. I’m not sure how you arrest a vial of vaccine.

At this point I think it is the pharmacist who is heard laughing but our citizen hero admonishes him, claiming the £72 the pharmacy gets for each vaccine is why they are happy to kill people. When the pharmacist challenges this fee, the man says he’s not there to argue. As he leaves, his last words are “god bless.” And all the time the delightful child, her face fully visible, dances and skips between the two adults.

When first viewing the video it is hard to take it seriously. Stunning examples of brainless ignorance are always good for a laugh and this one is up there with the best. Yet there is something strangely menacing and dark about it all.

These individuals clearly believe this nonsense. They are motivated to take action and they are happy to absorb the ridicule they face because they believe in their cause. They are behaving as a cult behaves. Tragically it is such a small step from where they currently are to the point that their action might be more sinister, perhaps even violent.

Recognising this, CPNI was quick to respond and to support pharmacies should additional “servings” take place. It clarified the situation where an individual “serves” a pharmacy with “legal papers”. Without a court stamp, the papers have no legal basis, meaning indemnity insurance companies cannot confirm the situation where proceedings are threatened.

The advice has reassured staff and prepared them to handle such people should they visit. Engagement with these individuals, we are told, should be kept to an absolute minimum. Certainly don’t get involved with a debate because you can’t argue with those deaf to reason.
It’s a good idea that staff make it clear that they have patients to see and prescriptions to dispense and therefore do not have time for a discussion. Pharmacy teams should not, if possible, accept documents.

CPNI also advises that if these individuals are not in the pharmacy for a commissioned service they should be asked to leave. This may be difficult to enforce and might involve confrontation, so back to minimal engagement and getting them out as quickly as possible.

Anti-vaccination sentiment across the UK is very real and increasing and these groups and individuals often cite a legal basis for their action. I am the first to say that people who oppose vaccination are entitled to their opinions but nothing I have heard from the antivaxxers and the arguments they make have merit in my eyes.

The tragedy and the irony of the situation is that these people believe passionately they are doing a public good when in fact they are causing great harm and potentially killing the very peoples and communities they claim to be protecting. 
 

Terry Maguire is a leading community pharmacist in Northern Ireland.
 
 
 

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