An anti-vaccine poster designed to deter people from getting immunised against COVID-19 has been found attached to a Penrith lamp-post.
Fears have been expressed that the poster is the “tip of an iceberg” of misinformation being pedalled to the public.
Its discovery has been described by an Eden district councillor as a “deeply worrying development” while the county’s director of public health has moved to allay any fears people may have about getting vaccinated.
The police have also been informed and are investigating after the poster was discovered on a lamp-post in William Street.
The events follow government announcements hailing the development of a vaccine to combat coronavirus, fuelling hopes that an end to the crippling pandemic is in sight.
The A4-sized poster was found by William Tildesley, aged 30, a customer assistant at Booths in Penrith, who said it contained “patently false information” which could play some small part in harming public confidence in the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The wording on the poster references biblical texts and goes on to make outlandish claims about the ingredients of the vaccine, including that they include potential allergens, toxic, and carcinogenic substances and neurotoxins.
The poster says: “Additionally, getting any vaccine does not ensure that we would be protected from the disease, and in fact, we could get the very disease we were vaccinated for either in spite of or directly because of the vaccine.”
It concludes that the manufacturers are immune from lawsuit and “can keep pumping out whatever they want even if people are maimed or killed”.
Mr Tildesley, of Arthur Street, said he was shocked and disturbed to find the so called “fact sheet” publicly displayed.
“It’s concerning that there are people out there who believe these myths and we have got to do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable,” he said. “A lot of that is down to education and providing people with the facts and the Government, health authorities and local councils have a big part to play in that.
“I have only seen the one (poster) but I imagine it is not the only one. It is not often that one of these goes up without there being more around.
“The majority of people will think it is misinformation — the majority of people are fairly level headed individuals.”
Mr Tildesley passed on his concerns to Ali Ross, Eden district councillor for Penrith North, who described the discovery of the leaflet as a “very worrying development”.
“There is a real danger that this type of narrative could gain traction within some sections of the community and undermine confidence and thereby take-up of the vaccine when it becomes available,” said Ms Ross.
She added that a council officer had since notified the police. Ms Ross said that she hoped most residents were discerning enough to recognise the poster as containing “false information”.
“This could simply be the tip of the iceberg and there is likely to be more of this material on social media that is going to be far more difficult to counter,” she added.
Dr Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health, said there is a lot of false or misleading information circulating in relation to the new COVID-19 vaccines.
He said that, in fact, vaccines had had a “massively positive” effect on people’s health in this country and across the globe.
“With any new vaccine it is understandable that people will have questions and may be nervous about receiving it,” said Mr Cox. “What is important is that people seek out reliable information from reputable, trusted sources such as the NHS.
“The COVID-19 vaccines have been developed quickly, but this has been the result of unprecedented levels of funding and resourcing, streamlining bureaucratic processes and the fact there was already a huge amount knowledge about vaccines for similar viruses.
“The new vaccines will have to pass all the same regulatory tests before they are available to the public. Safety comes first and no corners have been cut.”
“We believe that the vaccines that are coming through now are effective and safe,” said Mr Cox.
“We will be working to make sure that everybody is informed as much as possible about the vaccines that are coming through because people should have full confidence in them and have all the information to help them to make decisions about vaccination.”