Anti-vaccine website taken down after sending hoax COVID NHS letters to schools

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NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: Lauren McLean, 15 from Newcastle receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Excelsior Academy
 on September 22, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  The Excelsior Academy on Denton Road in Newcastle is the first school in the North East and North Cumbria to offer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination to healthy 12-15-year-olds where parents have provided consent. This week the NHS and local School Age Vaccination Services begin immunising children aged 12 to 15 on advice from the UK's four Chief Medical Officers, in a move to reduce the disruption to education caused by COVID-19. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for 12 to 17-year-olds. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
The COVID vaccine rollout was extended to 12- to 15-year-olds earlier this month. (Getty Images)

An anti-vaccine website sending fake COVID-19 jab consent letters to schools has been taken down.

The site, which used the domain, was removed after parents noticed anti-vax material in the consent forms given to their children.

On Monday evening, the company that hosted the domain confirmed it had been taken down.

After being alerted on Twitter that it was hosting the fake domain, web hosting service Kualo, which has offices in the UK and the US, said it had taken action.

“We have taken immediate steps to suspend this domain's registration, which in turn removes it from being accessible to the internet, and will be investigating this further,” Kualo said.

Kualo added in a statement to Yahoo News UK: "We take any abuse of our services seriously."

Headteachers had reportedly been sent letters with a fake NHS logo that included a “consent checklist” for vaccination, which they were asked to share with their students.

On Monday, an NHS England medical director warned parents against hoax COVID vaccine letters aimed at spreading misinformation.

Three million children aged 12 to 15 across the UK are now eligible to receive a first jab as part of a programme that began on 20 September and is expected to be delivered primarily within schools.

After a parent shared one of the “checklists” on Twitter, NHS England medical director for COVID immunisation Dr Jonathan Leach replied: “Just to confirm that this is not a legitimate NHS form.”

Watch: COVID jabs rolled out to 12- to 15-year-olds

One school, Redborne Upper School and Community College in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, apologised after it sent the fake consent letter to parents of pupils.

In a letter to parents seen by the BBC, Redborne headteacher Olly Button wrote: "Apologies for any confusion or unnecessary stress caused by earlier communication sent by Redborne on behalf of what at first sight appears to be the NHS.

"The email and attachment were sent in error and include a student consent checklist for COVID-19.

"This is not from the NHS and is believed to be from a group wishing to disrupt the vaccination programme." 

Earlier this month, the UK Health Security Agency said it was aware some schools have been receiving campaign letters and emails with “misinformation” about the vaccine programme, following ministers' decision to allow children aged 12 to 15 to get a first jab.

On Monday, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said vaccination was not mandatory and remained a personal choice, but was critical of those who have abused and threatened school staff.

“I want teachers and students to know that I will always stand up for them and tackle harassment head on, so teachers can do their vital jobs safely and children can get the education they deserve – regardless of choices made over vaccination,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

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