With a coronavirus vaccine set to be given to Britons from next month, some people believe the government will force everyone to take it.
Boris Johnson has said everyone who is eligible should “definitely” get a COVID jab as the official UK death toll from the disease passed 50,000.
The prime minister said he would have “no inhibitions” about getting a vaccine himself as he dismissed the arguments of the so-called anti-vaxxers as “total nonsense”.
During a visit to a supermarket distribution centre in south-east London, Johnson said that once a vaccine was cleared for use, it was essential to ensure there was as wide a take-up as possible.
Posts shared on social media falsely claim that a government document indicates that the vaccine will be mandatory and the government will use the Mental Health Act to section anyone who refuses to take it.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said people “should definitely get a vaccine”, reflecting concerns among officials that misinformation by anti-vaxxers could deter some people from getting the jab.
Government data released on Wednesday showed 50,365 people had died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 – making it the first country in Europe to pass 50,000 deaths.