A former star of Dragons' Den has been criticised after she said Chris Whitty “will hang” after recommending COVID vaccines for children.
England’s chief medical officer (CMO) and the CMOs from the three other UK nations advised that children aged between 12 and 15 should be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech jab on Monday.
Rachel Elnaugh, the entrepreneur who founded the UK gift company Red Letter Days and starred in the first two series of BBC’s business investment show, reacted with fury to the announcement, tweeting: “Child abuse. Whitty will hang for this.”
Many reading the tweet said they were going to report Elnaugh for her comments, while journalist Ian Fraser wrote: “What the former 'Dragon' Rachel Elnaugh tweeted here is vile, disgraceful and seemingly inciting violence against a government official.”
Another responded: “Whatever your views are, and however ill thought through they are, there is absolutely no need for this inciting of violence towards someone doing their job.”
As of Wednesday morning, the tweet remains live.
In a later post responding to the backlash, Elnaugh described her "qualifications" as a "Deeply concerned Mother of 5 boys, watching in horror as healthy children worldwide are jabbed with an experimental gene therapy (for a ‘disease’ which is no significant threat to their health) already causing myocarditis & blood clots."
It is widely accepted by the overwhelming majority of health experts that COVID, and long COVID, can pose a threat to children.
The decision to go ahead with vaccines for children comes despite the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) deciding not to recommend mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds.
The JCVI said COVID presents a very low risk for healthy children and vaccination would only offer a marginal benefit. It also cited "significant uncertainties around the safety of the two MRNA vaccines" and "a rare cardiac complication".
Watch: Chris Whitty slams anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists
However, it stressed that the decision was a "tight" one, saying: "These vaccines do work and would be beneficial to children in terms of preventing infection and disease."
The JCVI also suggested that the wider issues, such as education, should be taken into consideration and examined by CMOs.
On Tuesday, Prof Whitty commented on anti-vaxxers who “peddle untruths” during a Downing Street press conference saying they “should be ashamed”.
He said there are people with “strange beliefs” who make their own choices when it comes to vaccines, adding that those who try and prevent others from getting the potentially life-saving vaccine “should be ashamed” of themselves.
Prof Whitty was also asked about comments by rapper Nicki Minaj, who revealed she is not jabbed against the virus.
She provoked outcry on social media on Monday after sharing a story about a man who allegedly became impotent after being vaccinated.
Prof Whitty responded: “There are a number of myths that fly around… some of which are just clearly ridiculous and some of which are clearly designed just to scare.
“That happens to be one of them. That is untrue.”
Health secretary Sajid Javid has also waded into the controversy of Minaj’s comments, warning people in the public eye not to spread “untruths” about the COVID vaccines.
“Anyone, whether you are a pop celebrity, a footballer or a politician, you should be very careful about your language,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“Certainly when it comes to something as lifesaving as vaccines – in this country there are 112,000 fewer deaths because of our, we estimate, because of our vaccine programme – they should be really careful about what they say and not spread untruths.”
Boris Johnson also criticised Minaj over her stance on coronavirus vaccines, telling the press conference that “vaccines are wonderful and everybody should get them”.
Minaj later hit back at Johnson in a video posted on Twitter alongside a message saying to “send this to the prime minister and let him know they lied on me. I forgive him. No-one else. Only him.”
Prof Whitty has previously been targeted by anti-vaxxers.
In July this year a 24-year-old man was handed an eight-week sentence suspended for two years for assaulting him in St James’s Park following an anti-lockdown protest.
The Department for Health and Social Care refused to comment on the attacks against Prof Whitty and pointed to his comments made at the press conference on Tuesday.
An estimated five million Britons who are eligible for a vaccine who have yet to have one, and experts says the best way to avoid future lockdowns is to persuade as many as possible to get a jab.
The health secretary has said the NHS in England would now begin rolling out the vaccine with the same urgency that has characterised the rest of the programme.
If approved throughout the UK, three million British children could be eligible for the jab, with vaccinations expected to be given through schools.
Parental consent would be sought before the vaccine was administered but in the “rare event” that a parent declined but the child wanted the jab anyway, there would be a procedure to enable them to receive it if they were deemed “competent”.
Watch: Chris Whitty says benefit of vaccines for children outweigh risks