Dozens of billboards posted by an anti-vaccine group in the Greater Toronto Area are being removed, according to the advertising company that posted them.
Outfront Media spokeswoman Carly Zipp wrote in an e-mail that the billboards are being removed, but declined to answer questions about the billboards or the decision to remove them. The decision comes after The Globe and Mail reported on the billboards, which sparked a public outcry.
The billboards, posted by anti-vaccine group Vaccine Choice Canada, suggest vaccines are risky and that children don’t need to be immunized to attend school. Vaccine Choice Canada did not respond to a request for comment.
Ted Kuntz, vice-president of Vaccine Choice Canada, wrote on Facebook that Outfront Media informed him the billboards would be removed. He wrote that the billboards were in place for about one week and received many views.
“This campaign has been an absolute success and everyone should be proud of allw e have accomplished!” Mr. Kuntz wrote.
Earlier this week, Vaccine Choice Canada said the purpose of the campaign was to educate people. The group did not respond to questions about how the billboards were funded.
Several public health officials condemned the advertising campaign. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health with Toronto Public Health, said there should be a discussion about banning these and other advertisements that promote dangerous, false messages.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters on Wednesday the advertising campaign is “very concerning.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory is “glad to see the anti-vaccine billboards will be coming down,” spokesman Don Peat wrote in an e-mail.
“He believes these ads were dangerous to begin with,” Mr. Peat wrote.
Toronto City Councillor Joe Cressy wrote on Twitter the billboards are “deeply disturbing and potentially dangerous.”
The World Health Organization has declared vaccine hesitancy, defined as reluctance or refusal to vaccinate, as a top public health threat in 2019. Around the world, measles cases are on the rise and are being linked to falling vaccination rates. In Canada, B.C. has been dealing with a measles outbreak that has so far infected 13 people.