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Watchdog bans ‘distressing’ antivax advert on Facebook

Watchdog bans ‘distressing’ and ‘misleading’ anti-vax advert on Facebook that claims every vaccine has the potential to kill a baby

  • Stop Mandatory Vaccination group paid for the post on the social media site
  • Claimed ‘any vaccine given at any age kill your child’ and is blamed on cot death
  • Advertising Standards Authority said claims are ‘unsubstantiated’  
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A controversial anti-vaccination advert on Facebook has been banned for claiming that all jabs have the potential to kill a child.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the paid-for post by Stop Mandatory Vaccination was ‘distressing’ and ‘misleading’.

The post included a picture of a baby with its eyes shut, alongside claims he died 48 hours after being given eight vaccines.

It read: ‘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”.’  

This paid-for advert by Stop Mandatory Vaccination has been banned for alleging that all vaccines can kill children. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled the advert would likely cause ‘fear or distress’, with its claims against jabs being ‘unsubstantiated and misleading’

Vaccination fears soared following a study by disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield that the MMR jab can lead to autism in 1995. 

His controversial views have since been widely discredited and Wakefield has been struck off – but vaccination rates plummeted in the wake of the study.  

The ASA only has jurisdiction in the UK. It is unclear if the advert is still being used in the US on Facebook.

The Stop Mandatory Vaccination group, which has 146,000 members, was founded by the author and ‘advocate for natural living’ Larry Cook.

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Its post ended with: ‘If you are on the fence about vaccinating, read this story and then join our Facebook group to talk with like-minded parents.’

A mother of a young baby complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after seeing the post on Facebook.

The unnamed woman claimed it was misleading, unsubstantiated and would likely cause undue distress.

In response to an investigation by the ASA, the Stop Mandatory Vaccination group provided details of a document published by the Health Resources and Services Administration, a federal agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, who is believed to be dating the supermodel Elle Macpherson (both pictured), sparked fears of vaccines with his discredited 1995 theory that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is linked to bowel disease and autism

It detailed the number of claims that have been awarded compensation for alleged injuries or deaths caused by jabs, awarded as part of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Programme.

This alleged that between 1988 and 2018, 6,122 claims were compensated for injury and death supposedly caused by vaccinations, while 11,214 claims were let go.

Stop Mandatory Vaccination also argued the baby used in the advert was sleeping, with the post intending to cause parental concern.

Upholding the complaint, the ASA dismissed the data, saying it ‘did not demonstrate that all vaccinations were capable of causing death to children’.

The ASA admitted readers would appreciate the advert represented Stop Mandatory Vaccination’s own views.

It added, however, parents would be incorrectly led to believe that all vaccinations are proven to have the ability of causing death in children. 

The ASA said it acknowledged the figures ‘showed that a large number of claims had been compensated in relation to alleged injury or death caused by vaccinations’.

However, it added ‘the report stated settlement was not an admission of liability and did not determine whether the vaccine had conclusively caused the injury or death’.

It said: ‘Furthermore, we noted the report was only based on injuries and deaths to children in the US and did not cover the UK, where the data could be different.

‘We considered the evidence did not demonstrate that all vaccinations were capable of causing death to children.’

The ASA concluded that the claim ‘not only can any vaccine given at any age kill your child’ had not been substantiated and was misleading.

The ASA added the reference to SIDS was ‘likely to cause fear or distress to readers, particularly parents who may be looking for factual information about the risks associated with vaccinations for children’. 

The ASA ruled the ad must not appear again in its current form.

It added: ‘We told Stop Mandatory Vaccination not to state or imply that all vaccinations could cause death to children unless they held sufficient evidence to demonstrate that.

‘We also told them to ensure their marketing communications did not cause unjustifiable fear or distress.’


Andrew Wakefield’s discredited autism research has long been blamed for a drop in measles vaccination rates

In 1995, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.

He speculated that being injected with a ‘dead’ form of the measles virus via vaccination causes disruption to intestinal tissue, leading to both of the disorders.

After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said: ‘The risk of this particular syndrome [what Wakefield termed ‘autistic enterocolitis’] developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.’

At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.

Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK plummeted, until, in 2004 the then-editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton described Wakefield’s research as ‘fundamentally flawed’, adding he was paid by attorneys seeking lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.

The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.

Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practicing medicine in Britain, stating his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.

On January 6 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had autistic symptoms post vaccination, rather than the eight he claimed.

At least two of the children also had developmental delays before they were vaccinated, yet Wakefield’s paper claimed they were all ‘previously normal’.

Further findings revealed none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, yet the study claimed six of the participants suffered all three.

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