A family-run village pharmacy serving as a vaccination centre for the local population was vandalised over the weekend with anti-vaccine graffiti.
The Thomas Bell Pharmacy, based in Ambleside, was covered in yellow anti-vax messaging on Sunday which said ‘500 deaths’ and the word ‘no’ alongside an arrow that pointed to the sign for vaccines.
The pharmacy owner, Ravi Voruganti, told The Pharmacist that he and his wife and Halima— with who he jointly owns the pharmacy — found it ‘distressing.’
Thomas Bell Pharmacy has been offering Covid vaccines since March and has jabbed hundreds of residents against the virus.
‘It was the first Sunday we had off from vaccinating in weeks, so we were gutted,’ he said.
However, the couple said they have been ‘overwhelmed’ with support from the local community.
‘We have had loads of messages of support and thoughts from patients, local businesses and people in the community. Even NHS England have been in touch to make sure we are okay.’
Mr Voruganti said he booked a window cleaner to come on Monday to clean the graffiti but members of the community took it upon themselves and cleaned the walls and windows before the cleaner had even arrived.
‘We have been so humbled by all the support, it has honestly been phenomenal. The community has really acted as a comfort blanket for us both at this time,’ he said.
Some locals also have launched a go fund me page to help pay for any damages and the pharmacy received a cake which Mr Voruganti said served well as a ‘pick me up.’
Helen Barnes, a local resident, commented on the pharmacy’s Facebook page and said she thought the vandalism was ‘saddening, disgusting and disgraceful.’
‘Everyone has a right to an opinion but absolutely no one has a right to behave like this.
‘You are the best pharmacy we have ever had the privilege to be customers of. Dave and I can not thank you enough for all your help and the Ambleside community feels the same,’ she added.
Paul Day, the director of Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) said that even though he had not heard of other cases like this, he was aware the pharmacy team members are growing increasingly more anxious and worried about the growing anti-mask and anti-vaccine rhetoric.
‘The Government needs to condemn any kind of attack on property and a campaign of misinformation because that is what fuels this sort of behaviour,’ he explained.
It follows a large anti-vaccine rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday (24 July), which was widely reported on.
‘Who is to say the person or people who committed this act of violence was not watching the protests at Trafalgar Square?’ Mr Day said.
‘We can help members after they were assaulted but we would much rather members were not assaulted in the first place,’ he added.
Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) labelled the violence as ‘unacceptable’.
‘Pharmacy teams are an important and valued part of every community up and down the country. They work hard to ensure that patients can access medicines and health care advice when and where they need it.
‘It is vital that they are able to do so safely and do not feel threatened or in danger whilst at work,’ she added.
Last week, the vaccine minister Nadim Zahawi, promised to ‘look at anything we can do’ to protect staff at NHS Covid vaccination centres against ‘abhorrent abuse’.
The news comes as NHS England’s primary care director Dr Nikki Kanani had previously said she would ‘not stand for’ disruption by anti-vaccine protesters at Covid vaccination sites.