Schools have been targeted by fake Covid vaccine letters designed to deter students from taking the jab, it has emerged.
The letters, containing a "consent checklist", were sent from an email address purporting to belong to the NHS. Headteachers were asked to distribute them to parents.
After a parent shared one of the "checklists" on Twitter, Dr Jonathan Leach, the NHS England medical director for Covid immunisation, replied: "Just to confirm that this is not a legitimate NHS form."
It is understood the letters were sent to a number of schools and in some cases forwarded to parents before they were discovered to be a hoax.
One parent who received the letter tweeted: "It looked fishy, like it was designed to put kids off. But this went out to loads of parents and was sat in our inboxes for three hours before school emailed again to say it was a mistake."
Three million 12 to 15-year-olds across the UK are now eligible to receive a single dose as part of a programme which began on Sep 20 and is expected to be delivered primarily within schools.
Andy Byers, the headteacher of Framwellgate School, in Durham, shared a screenshot of the email and added: "Anti-Vaxxers sending hoax emails to schools purporting to be from NHS and asking us to distribute to all parents… haven’t we got enough to worry about?
"It’s pretty clear, if you don’t want your child to have the vaccine, fine. The rest has got nothing to do with you."
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is responsible for controlling the misuse of NHS identity and is understood to be investigating the letters, which included the NHS logo.
A DHSC spokesman said: "Misinformation about the vaccine is dangerous and costs lives. We are continuing to do everything we can, working with local authorities and our NHS, to counter the spread of untruths with public information that is grounded in science and facts.
"The phenomenal vaccine rollout has built a wall of defence across the country, with over 123,100 lives saved and more than 230,000 hospitalisations prevented."
Earlier this month, the UK Health Security Agency said it was aware some schools had been receiving campaign letters and emails with "misinformation" about the vaccine programme.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said it was "deeply disturbing that schools are being provided with hoax vaccine ‘consent checklists’ purporting to be from the NHS in the hope that this is passed on to parents".