Chris Whitty says anti-vaxxers should be 'ashamed' of themselves in Nicki Minaj rebuke

Chris Whitty had a stern message for anti-vaxxers and those peddling vaccine 'untruths', ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston reports

England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has said anti-vaxxers should be "ashamed of themselves" after being asked about claims by pop star Nicki Minaj that coronavirus jabs can cause impotence.

The top doctor, asked about Ms Minaj's claims, said there are some "clearly ridiculous" myths around effects of vaccines and people with "strange beliefs" who make their own choices should not discourage others from being immunised.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference held to set out the government's winter Covid plan, Prof Whitty added: "There are also people who go around trying to discourage other people from taking a vaccine, which could be life-saving or prevent them from having life-changing injuries to themselves.

"Many of those people, I regret to say, I think know that they are peddling untruths, but they still do it. In my view, they should be ashamed."

'Some myths are clearly ridiculous' - Professor Whitty is asked for his response to Nicki Minaj's claims:

He said repeating myths in public "just gives [anti-vaxxers] credence which they don't need", adding: "They're untrue, full stop."

Boris Johnson followed Professor Whitty's comments, saying he was "not as familiar with the works of Nicki Minaj as I probably should be", adding he was familiar with the work of Nikita Kanani, a GP who has spoken at a number of government press conference.

Mr Johnson said he prefers to listen to Dr Kanani over Ms Minaj.

The pop star responded within minutes on Twitter, saying "I love him even tho I guess this was a diss?".

Ms Minaj then posted an audio clip to Twitter, telling Mr Johnson in a English accent that she forgives him for not being familiar with her work, adding that she's a "big, big star in the United States".

It was earlier revealed that almost 99% of Covid-19 deaths in the first half of this year were people who had not received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said vaccines had been "incredibly successful" and had so far prevented an estimated 24 million Covid-19 cases and 112,000 deaths.

"This shows the importance of our vaccination programme," Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs while delivering a statement on the government's winter plan in the House of Commons.

In the UK more than 44 million people are now fully vaccinated.