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With hopes rising of a coronavirus jab being rolled out by the end of the year, Labour has called for emergency legislation to “stamp out dangerous anti-vax content”. Labour pressed the Government to bring forward legislation that would include financial and criminal penalties for companies that fail to act against such content. The party claimed that dedicated anti-vaccination groups with hundreds of thousands of members on social media are “churning out disinformation” on the issue.
But speaking to TalkRADIO, Professor Karol Sikora, who has been described as a leading world authority on cancer, claimed the ban would be “ridiculous”.
He said: “If you ban any discussion about safety it would be ridiculous.
“Vaccination is one of the wonders of the modern world, even I am too young to remember polio when it saw paralysed children in hospitals. Disabled for life.
“Now it’s just gone and all that fear about infections and swimming pools, it’s just gone.
“So, vaccines have tremendous power but they also have some drawbacks.
“This is a complex situation for a vaccine.”
Labour said the Government should “urgently bring forward legislation that would include financial and criminal penalties for companies that fail to act to stamp out dangerous anti-vaccine content”.
Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth have written to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden insisting that the “spread of disinformation online presents a real and present danger” to vaccination efforts.
The two shadow cabinet members have called for the Government to “bring forward online harms legislation”.
Mr Ashworth said there should be penalties for social media platforms which allow misinformation to spread, and he urged the Government to bring forward its Online Harms Bill.
Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge show on Sunday, Mr Ashworth said: “I looked on my phone this morning and you can still find stuff on TikTok and so on.
“So we want to work with the Government and find a way of stamping this out. I think it would involve financial penalties.”
He said fewer people choosing to take the vaccine due to online misinformation was “the last thing we want”.
Mr Ashworth called on the Government to deal with “some of the dangerous, nonsensical anti-vax stuff that we’ve seen spreading on social media.”
Some of the “poison garbage” conspiracy theories on social media suggested that the vaccine is being developed by “big global business people who want to use it to insert microchips into people”, he said.
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On Monday, news that a US coronavirus vaccine may prevent 94.5 percent of people from getting COVID-19 was hailed as “tremendously exciting” by British scientists.
Interim data from the US firm Moderna suggests its vaccine is highly effective in preventing people getting ill and also works across all age groups, including the elderly.
The UK Government has confirmed that it is in discussions with US company Moderna to “ensure UK access to their vaccine”.
But any doses would not be available until spring 2021 “at the earliest”.
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