Just when the countdown clock on Ontario’s public health database ticked down to zero, Toronto became the first city in Canada to launch an ad campaign boasting “Toronto doesn’t trust vaccines.” The campaign, which begins airing today, depicts it as a shame that the city lacks the same confidence in vaccines as California. In one commercial, shot in a grainy, black-and-white style reminiscent of “Twin Peaks,” Mayor John Tory speaks to the camera.
“A city like Toronto should be the leading city in Canada in vaccine safety,” he says. “But in the last year we’ve seen a year of doctor shows where well-known doctors set up lie after lie to keep vaccine controversial.”
In another ad, former Toronto mayor David Miller — who is the city’s health chief, health commissioner and director of the school of public health — says that it’s a shame that this ad campaign is starting in California. “It’s about time someone stood up for the truth.”
Since 2008, the city has gone without a measles outbreak, as the virus has been eliminated in the United States. And yet, until a week ago, Toronto’s Department of Health had not operated a web application tracking outbreaks in the country’s most populous city. To encourage people to get vaccinated, the health department relies on trusts created by government and foundations, which were tied up in bureaucratic red tape. Now, Toronto will launch its own web application to track outbreaks.
The campaign will include display ads in stores across Toronto and will also appear on billboards and in airport restrooms. The goal is to enlist 50,000 supporters in two months. While most people do not have insurance or sufficient access to health care, the ad campaign is a symbolic show of confidence in the city’s citizens.
“Toronto is a community-based city and generally people listen to each other,” Mayor Tory said in an interview with Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno. “The one institution we have that doesn’t is the system. That system should be totally removed to ensure the safety of our children.”
There have been a number of high-profile vaccinations scares over the last two years. For example, in March, actor Steven Seagal faced accusations that he’d given his daughter a shot with the anti-vaxxer-triggered measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Though a California resident, the Meryl Poster, the American medical community’s spokeswoman on vaccine safety, visited Seagal’s home after he denied being the parent of a girl with autism. After he answered her questions, “we’ve been in contact with Steven and, more than anything, we’re glad he is taking the time to talk to our colleague about the science of vaccines,” Poster said.
Perhaps not. In June, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, an unlicensed British gastroenterologist, was found guilty of falsifying evidence that had placed much of the West in danger of measles and autism during a series of papers published in 1998, before any supporting research had been conducted.