As he visited a London medical center to promote a flu immunization program Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to opponents of vaccinations as "nuts."
Johnson made the off-hand comment as he chatted with nurses about the importance of a widespread flu vaccination plan as winter approaches. He said the need for such vaccinations is more vital than ever to keep the public health system from being overwhelmed with flu patients as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
As he discussed the flu immunization program, Johnson noted the number of people who don't vaccinate their children against childhood illnesses. He said, "There are all these anti-vaxxers now, they are nuts."
Anti-vaccination activists, a vocal group that opposes inoculations, has organized protests in the wake of the current crisis. They believe, contrary to scientific evidence, that ingredients in a vaccine can cause harm to the body. And the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about pharmaceutical industry plots regarding vaccines.
Health experts have repeatedly said there is no evidence the coronavirus was intentionally created or spread. They also insist that vaccines are not only safe, but essential to global health.
The United Nations warned last week about an alarming decline in childhood vaccinations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the likelihood a child born today will have all recommended vaccines by the age of five is less than 20%.
Johnson was visiting the medical facility as Britain's new rules mandating wearing masks when visiting retail businesses came into force. As of Friday, police can issue fines of $127 for non-compliance.