Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has hit out at anti-vaxxers whose ‘downright lies’ ‘cost lives’.
The Fine Gael minister distinguished between those who disseminate misinformation about vaccines and those who might be doubtful about the speed with which COVID-19 vaccines have been developed.
Mr Harris’s remarks come as Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn moved to reassure the people of Ireland that any COVID-19 vaccine made available will be safe, saying: ‘I encourage every individual, those vaccine hesitant as well as those vaccine confident, to stay informed using appropriate medical sources and do not be afraid to ask your GP questions about vaccine safety.’
Appearing on RTE’s Today with Claire Byrne on Monday, Mr Harris spoke about the prospect of a national COVID-19 vaccination programme being rolled out early in 2021.
When asked about Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s prediction that the majority of the Irish population will not be vaccinated until June or July, Mr Harris said: ‘I certainly think it’s right for Government to be cautious and to be conservative in relation to our predictions on this, because what we don’t want anyone to do is let down their guard.
‘What we’ll see at Cabinet tomorrow is the detailed plan on how we’re going to roll out this vaccine, whose going to do it, how’s it going to work. We then need to urgently engage with those who we’re going to rely on to do it, like the ICGP, the IMO, nurses and anyone else who’ll be required to roll this out.
He added: ‘It’s going to take a period of time to vaccinate everybody in our country, that’s very clear, but there will be milestones along the way. So when we have safely vaccinated everybody for example living in a nursing home, that’s a really important moment. When we’ve safely vaccinated everybody who works in our hospitals, that’s an important moment.’
When asked whether he had much time for pseudoscience or anti-vaxxers, Mr Harris was curt in his response, simply saying: ‘I don’t.’
He went on to say that there is a ‘huge difference’ between those who may be vaccine hesitant and anti-vaxxers, stating: ‘I’m glad you’ve given me the opportunity to differentiate.
‘So people who’ll go around and spread misinformation, disinformation and downright lies on the internet, I have no time for them.
‘I’ve watched how their actions have cost lives in this country with the HPV vaccine.
‘However, it’s absolutely understandable that people will have questions. This vaccine has come into being really, really quickly, and I think people are going to want to know how did that happen, how will it work, is it safe for me and my family? And I think they’ll want to hear from experts, they’ll want to hear from doctors.’
Mr Harris added: ‘It’s really, really important that the health service steps up, as I know it will, and answers questions, provides information. And all I will say to people respectfully listening to this programme is just get your information from a doctor or a scientist.
‘That’s where I’ll get the information for my family’s health and I think it’s where you should get yours.’