'Spreading lies': UK government hits back in row with Nicki Minaj over vaccine disinformation

Sajid Javid has condemned the sharing of "misinformation" and "outright lies" surrounding Covid-19 vaccines, saying it is damaging the fight against the pandemic. 

The Health Secretary made the comments amid a row between Nicki Minaj and the British government following a tweet by the US rapper in which she claimed her cousin's friend had become "impotent" and his testicles had become "swollen" after having a Covid vaccine. 

A subsequent war of words kicked off after England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said people peddling mistruths about the virus "should be ashamed" during a Downing Street press conference setting out Boris Johnson's Covid plans for this winter. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid at Downing Street on September 14, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)
Sajid Javid has stepped into the row with Nicky Minaj. (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)

"[There are] people that 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," he said. 

Nicki Minaj claimed her cousin's friend became impotent and developed swollen testicles after having a COVID vaccine weeks before getting married / Twitter: @NICKIMINAJ
Nicki Minaj claimed her cousin's friend became impotent and developed swollen testicles after having a COVID vaccine weeks before getting married / Twitter: @NICKIMINAJ
Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Monday September 13, 2021.
England's chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty condemned vaccine disinformation at a press conference yesterday (PA Images)

"Many of those people, I regret to say, will know they are pedalling untruths but they still do it.

"In my view, they should be ashamed."

Prime minister Boris Johnson also dismissed her comments. 

Swiftly after, Minaj hit back on Twitter in a bizarre rant that included her attempting to impersonate a British accent and claiming to have gone to Oxford University with Margaret Thatcher.  

Nicki Minaj in the Press Room during the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards at Bilbao Exhibition Centre in Bilbao, Spain. (Photo by DPPA/Sipa USA)
Nicki Minaj in the Press Room during the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards at Bilbao Exhibition Centre in Bilbao, Spain. (Photo by DPPA/Sipa USA)

"I would just appeal to anyone that's in a public position: please don't do that," Javid said this morning on vaccine disinformation. 

"You're in effect, if you're doing that, you're really hurting people - because vaccines are saving lies and you're doing the opposite by spreading lies.

"That sort of thing, of course, it doesn't help." 

The government are desperately trying to encourage more and more people to get vaccinated as the country enters winter and a potential surge in Covid cases. 

As well as offering booster jabs to health and social care workers, extremely clinically vulnerable people, and those aged 50 and over, the government have recently approved Covid vaccines for 12-15 year olds. 

 An elderly woman receives an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at a NHS vaccination centre that has been set up at the Life Science Centre.
Serval mass vaccination centres now opened to the general public as the government continues to ramp up the vaccination programme against Covid-19. (Photo by Nicolas Briquet / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
An elderly woman receives an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at a NHS vaccination centre that has been set up at the Life Science Centre. Serval mass vaccination centres now opened to the general public as the government continues to ramp up the vaccination programme against Covid-19. (Photo by Nicolas Briquet / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

According to Johnson, around five million people remain unvaccinated; despite this, vaccine hesitancy in the UK is among the lowest in the world. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) in August said in the latest period (23rd June to 18th July 2021), 96% of British adults had "positive sentiment" towards a Covid vaccine. 

However, vaccine hesitancy does differ between ethnic groups - with 21% of Black or Black British adults expressing vaccine hesitancy.