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Ad Standards council finds local billboard questioning COVID vaccine to be 'misleading'

COVID billboard misleading

A West Kelowna billboard questioning the safety of the “cure” for COVID-19 is “playing upon fears rather than providing facts,” according to Canada's Ad Standards council.

The billboard, which reads “COVID. Is the cure worse than the illness?” was up on the corner of Boucherie Road and Highway 97 for several months. It was purchased by Vaccine Choice Canada, an organization that purports to provide information about “the vaccine issue.”

The Ad Standards council recently ruled the billboard contravenes several sections of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, after the council received four complaints about it.

“The complainants alleged that the advertisement was spreading dangerous information about COVID-19 safety measures, posing a risk to public health by making statements that were not truthful,” the council wrote in its decision. “Some of the complainants alleged that, based on the information available on the advertiser’s website, the advertisements were spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.”

In response, Vaccine Choice Canada said the billboard was “meant to invite consideration and public discourse to evaluate the effectiveness and measures being imposed in response to COVID-19,” adding that debate around COVID-19 measures are “systematically censored.”

The majority of the council members found the phrasing “Is the cure worse than the illness?” above the Vaccine Choice Canada website address created the impression that the COVID-19 vaccine is, or could be, worse than contracting the disease.

“According to the majority of Council, taken in the context of a global pandemic and the possibility that 'cure' could mean vaccine, sowing this doubt could contribute to vaccine hesitancy by playing upon fears rather than providing facts,” the Ad Standards Council ruled.

The council found the billboard misleading, displays a disregard for safety and plays upon fears to mislead the consumer.

Advertisers that are found to contravene the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards will be “asked to remove or amend” the ad.

But as of Wednesday, this particular billboard is no longer up at the corner of Boucherie Road and Highway 97. It's been replaced by two others from Vaccine Choice Canada. These read: “Is your health worth a few hours of research?” and “Children are harmed by lockdowns.”

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