Tony Blair tonight rowed back on his claim that anti-vaxxers were ‘idiots’, by admitting: ‘I was a bit undiplomatic in my use of language’.
But after describing people who refused the vaccine as beyond ‘irresponsible’ on Times Radio this morning, he then tempered the remarks in a subsequent interview on BBC Radio 4’s PM.
‘Possibly I was a little too undiplomatic in my use of language,’ he said tonight when quizzed on the comment.
Mr Blair, who since being in power has founded the non-governmental Tony Blair Institute, added: ‘We have got a piece of work out in the field at the moment as an institute, and I think the Government should do the same – just investigating what is the profile, what are the reasons why people are not getting vaccinated.
‘You have, as a Government, got to go out and try individually to persuade these people. If this goes on for some time this will be a big problem for us.’
Speaking to Times Radio earlier, Mr Blair had said: ‘Frankly, if you’re not vaccinated at the moment and you’re eligible and you’ve got no health reason for not being vaccinated, you’re not just irresponsible, I mean you’re an idiot.
‘I’m sorry, I mean that is, truthfully you are. Because this Omicron variant is so contagious, if you’re unvaccinated and you’re in circulation, you’re going to get it. And that is going to put a lot of strain on the health service.’
His comments came amid revelations that up to 130,000 frontline NHS staff are still not fully vaccinated despite the threat of Omicron – and losing their jobs if they are not double-jabbed by April 1.
But figures published by the UK’s four health agencies have now revealed that more than 30 million extra doses of Covid-19 vaccine have now been given in Britain – meaning roughly 58% of all adults in the country have now had a booster or third dose of Covid-19 vaccine, as Boris Johnson vowed to get every adult boosted by the end of the year.
Dr Ewen Cameron, of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, recently revealed that ‘about 80% of patients’ it treated in recent months in general wards and critical care were unvaccinated.
And Professor Rupert Pearse, an ICU doctor at the Royal London Hospital, warned that patients who are well enough to talk often beg for doctors to vaccinate them immediately, and more unjabbed 20 to 40-year-olds were being admitted.
Professor Pearse told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Between 80 and 90 per cent of the patients that we have are unvaccinated. The great majority of us are vaccinated so you’re always going to get a few patients with Covid even though they’ve had the vaccine.’