Anti-vaccine groups are still working hard to spread their scientifically-unsupported message to the masses, this time via an ad on a jumbotron in Times Square, New York City. This ad has the potential to reach many tens of thousands of people between now and April 28 (it runs once an hour, every hour) when its time is up.
The short ad, which you can see at the end of this article, doesn’t explicitly advocate not getting children vaccinated, but makes it clear they think there’s a choice to be made, and directing people to the websites of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) and Mercola (neither of which I will link to), but which both have very clear anti-vaccine agendas. Mercola is the website of Dr. Joe Mercola, a noted anti-vaccine proponent who is one of the worst practitioners of quack medicine to be found today. The NVIC, which sounds like a government agency, is in fact the exact opposite, having been described as the “most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America” by respected journalist Michael Specter.
So why is this such a big deal? Because, as I’ve written about on GeekDad before, not getting your kids vaccinated is not just a dangerous choice, it’s a potentially fatal one — and often the worst consequences are for other people’s children. There have been whooping cough outbreaks all over the United States, shutting down some small schools and resulting in the deaths of at least ten infants in Calfornia last year. Since 2007, over 77,000 preventable illnesses in the U.S. have indirectly resulted from anti-vaccine movements, and over 700 deaths. And most of it is traceable to research that has been proved fraudulent that claimed to show a link between vaccines and autism.
So, what can you do about this ad? Well, there’s an online petition on Change.org you can sign to urge the management at CBS Outdoor, which owns the jumbotron, to take down the ad immediately. You can tweet messages to @CBSOutdoor using the hashtag #VaxCBS to urge them to take it down. If you feel like it, you can even, as the website Skepchick suggests, email a whole mess of people at CBS Outdoor and CBS corporate to urge them more directly. But remember, be polite.
If you feel like it, you might consider pointing out that CBS had no problem firing Charlie Sheen, and he was mostly a danger to himself. This ad, on the other hand, is potentially a danger to thousands of children. Heck, point out what kind of lawsuit damages and bad publicity they could be liable for if it could be proven children died because of the ad. That should make them sit up and reconsider.
You can see the ad below.