Anti-vaccination campaign’s advert banned for claiming all vaccines can kill children

Advertising watchdog bans Facebook post targeted at parents containing image of 'dead baby' 

Tom Barnes
Wednesday 07 November 2018 01:32 GMT
The ad, not pictured, was deemed misleading
The ad, not pictured, was deemed misleading

A Facebook advert that warned parents vaccines can “kill your child” has been banned following a complaint by a young mother.

The post, which claimed doctors would blame deaths supposedly caused by jabs on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, was also ruled to have caused “undue distress”.

In a ruling published on Wednesday, industry watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the campaign by a group called Stop Mandatory Vaccination made unsubstantiated claims.

It was banned after being found to breach rules regarding harm and offence, misleading advertising and substantiation.

The ad stated: “Parents, not only can any vaccine given at any age kill your child, but if this unthinkable tragedy does occur, doctors will dismiss it as ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome‘ (SIDS).

“If you are on the fence about vaccinating, read this story and then join our Facebook group to talk with like-minded parents”.

The promoted post also featured an image of a baby with its eyes closed. Text accompanying the image read: “Owen Matthew Stokes (Aug 18, 2017 – Oct 25, 2017)”.

The mother of a young child complained about the advert, calling claims made within it misleading and arguing it was likely to cause “undue distress”.

When contacted by the ASA, American campaigner Larry Cook, trading as Stop Mandatory Vaccination, provided US Department of Health data on compensation claims over alleged injury or death caused by vaccinations.

The group argued the document showed in the US, the Vaccination Injury Compensation Act had paid out $4bn (£3bn) in relation to vaccine claims over the past 30 years.

Stop Mandatory Vaccination said parents who raised concerns about vaccinations were often ignored by doctors.

It also admitted it had targeted Facebook users interested in parenting in a bid to encourage them to reconsider vaccinating their children.

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The data presented by the group showed between 1988 and 2018 in the US, 6,122 claims were compensated for injury or death allegedly caused by vaccinations and 11,214 claims were dismissed.

But, despite noting the number of pay-outs, the ASA ruled the existence of compensation claims did not prove vaccines caused children injury or death.

“We considered that the evidence did not demonstrate that all vaccinations were capable of causing death to children,” a spokesman for the agency said.

“Because we had not seen sufficient evidence that showed all vaccinations were proven to have the capability of causing death to children, we concluded that the claim ‘not only can any vaccine given at any age kill your child’ had not been substantiated and was misleading.”

“We considered that the image of a baby lying down with its eyes closed accompanied by its date of death suggested that the baby was dead and was likely to be distressing to readers, especially to parents.

Stop Mandatory Vaccination was ordered not to display the advertisement again in its current form, or repeat the claim that all vaccines can kill children in further campaigns.

The ruling comes as a British mother called on other parents to vaccinate their children after her eight-month-old son contracted measles.

Kiora Pen shared photos on Facebook of her son Marshall, who was covered in rashes after being diagnosed with the viral disease on Monday.

The mother said she was concerned her baby had caught measles from an older child who had not been given the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella.

Additional reporting by agencies

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