The National Vaccine Information Center, an organization ironically misinformed about vaccines, is running an ad on Delta Airlines flights through the entire month of November.
You may remember the NVIC from their previous work… like running an anti-vax ad in Times Square that was condemned by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This new ad is especially insidious, because like everything the NVIC does to scare and misinform people, they hide their disgusting germy nougat inside a science-based candy shell. In this case, Barbara Loe Fisher spends the majority of the video talking about how you need to wash your hands and not spray your boogers on people to do your part to not spread snot-borne illnesses. Which, I have to agree, is good advice.
But she’s a tricky trickster.
The video starts with Loe Fisher informing you that no one really gets the flu. People get sick, sure, but not really the flu so much. The flu is a non-thing. Some people get it, but no one really gets it. Everyone just gets sick. Generic sick.
So the ad is not talking about how to prevent the spread of flu at all (while pretending to actually care whether or not you get the flu.) She’s talking about how to stop the spread of illness. This is an important, but subtle detail. Because if no one gets the flu, and everything else can be prevented by washing your hands, exercising and eating at salad bars (seriously?)… then you don’t need to vaccinate against the flu. Flu shots aren’t even necessary. (Even if salad bars are arguably the number one reason to get vaccinated against everything always.)
So for all the people who aren’t going to go to the NVIC site to get their brains injected with fear and infectious disease, they still walk away from the ad with two important pieces of information:
- The flu isn’t really a threat
- Even if it is, you can just wash your hands and exercise and you won’t get it.
But the flu is real, and it kills thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of people every year in the US alone. And it kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. And that’s not even counting the places where we cannot get good stats because the developing world is filled with places where we simply cannot measure the spread of the flu.
For most people, the flu isn’t a big deal. You get sick; you get miserable; you take a few days off of work; you chug NyQuil and Gatorade, sleep and eventually you get better. We think of the flu as something that’s dangerous if you live in places where no one has access to over-the-counter medicines and sports drinks. But the fact is that for pregnant women, people with chronic disease, weakened immune systems, babies, and otherwise healthy people with conditions like asthma can be severely affected by the flu. They need to get their shots… and really, they need you to get your shots, too. ETA: And let’s not forget the H1N1 outbreak, where young, healthy, strong people ended up hospitalized and even dying from the flu. You don’t have to be in a risk group to have serious, deadly, complications from the flu.
What’s especially scary to me about this ad is that it’s being run on airplanes. Airplanes are like infectious disease pods traveling 35,000 feet up in the sky. Everyone crammed in together, touching each other, touching hand rails, touching your arm rest, touching their boogers because they forget that the window seat isn’t an invisibility shield, half-assed washing their hands because the water pressure is terrible and the soap dispensers are all broken. (Seriously… I don’t give a shit about crashing into the ground or bomb-strapped terrorists. I’m worried about MRSA.)
And let’s not forget that NVIC’s ultimate goal here is not to get people to opt out of just the flu shot. The ultimate goal of this ad is to get people to visit the NVIC website, trick them into thinking they’re looking at a legitimate government website, and get them to stop vaccinating altogether. And then put those people on planes. Which is how many vaccine-preventable outbreaks happen in the US. The following are screen shots from the ad where they show two “random” NVIC.org:
It’s almost subtle, isn’t it?
But the good news is that I’m here to provide you with a place to voice your outrage! In fact, I’m providing you with many outlets for your rage. Because I’m pro-rage outlet and anti-getting the flu. If I’m going to chug a bottle of Tussin, I want it to be because I’m an irresponsible college student who can’t afford booze and can’t find weed*. Not because I’m coming down with pneumonia because I got the flu on a Delta flight back from Padre.
First, sign the Change.org petition.
(See? I can do pseudo-subtle, too.) This petition is being sent to the executives at Delta, the COO of In-Flight Media — the company responsible for distributing the ads and ensuring they get onto your airplane, and the board of the World Airline Entertainment Association /Airline Passenger Experience Association— “the official worldwide network, representing nearly 100 airlines and over 250 airline suppliers and related companies, committed to excellence in in-flight entertainment (IFE), communications and services, and the continual improvement of the airline passenger environment”; as well as general customer service addresses.
- Next we have Twitter. Delta Assist, which is Delta’s customer service account and Delta’s official account. Tweet with the hashtag #FluDelta.
- And on Facebook, you can comment to In-Flight Media, and on the actual video of the NVIC ad, and write on Delta’s wall.
- Delta also has old fashioned customer service email forms and phone numbers. As does In-Flight Media.
- If you’d like to target your rage to individuals, make phone calls, send snail mail, here’s my contact list.
And if that’s too many options for you, here’s my suggested plan of attack, in order and by importance:
- Sign petition
- Tweet: “#fludelta @DeltaAssist @Delta If you’re so concerned about safety, stop running potentially deadly anti-vaccine ads http://wp.me/pbblq-6qu”
- Comment on the video on Facebook
- Share this post on Facebook and Twitter
- Encourage your friends to join this campaign.
Tell Delta that it’s irresponsible to encourage anti vaccination rhetoric. Let them know that you are not willing to support their decision to risk your health for advertising dollars. Ask them if they’re willing to add to the anti-vax body count.
If you are looking for an alternative to flying Delta because of this ad, the Every Child By Two Campaign is running vaccine advocacy PSAs on US Airways and American Airlines through the month of November. I would highly recommend sending your business to them.
Still no word from Delta, but Sullivan at Left Brain Right Brain is reporting that the American Academy of Pediatrics has written a letter to Delta urging them to remove the ad:
November 4, 2011
Chief Executive Officer
Delta Air Lines
Dear Mr. Anderson,
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) objects to the paid advertisement/public service message from the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) being shown throughout the month of November on Delta’s in-flight programming. The ad urges viewers to become informed about influenza and how to stay well during the flu season without resorting to the influenza vaccine.
While hand washing and covering sneezes are parts of a larger strategy to prevent the spread of influenza, influenza vaccine continues to be the best way to protect against the disease. It is especially important in enclosed settings where disease droplets can easily spread to passengers sitting in close quarters, especially infants and children and those with special health care needs.
The AAP and many other child health organizations have worked hard to protect children and their families from unfounded and unscientific misinformation regarding vaccine safety. The influenza vaccine is safe and effective.
By providing advertising space to an organization like theNVIC, which opposes the nation’s recommended childhood immunization schedule and promotes the unscientific practice of delaying or skipping vaccines altogether, you are putting the lives of children at risk, leaving them unprotected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Diseases like influenza can have serious consequences. From September 2010 to August 2011, 115 children died from influenza disease, most of whom were unvaccinated.
The AAP’s 60,000 member pediatricians urge you to remove these harmful messages, which fail to inform the public about the safety and efficacy of influenza vaccine. Please do your part to help reassure parents that vaccinating their children is the best way to protect them from influenza disease, particularly during this busy travel season.
*Seriously kids, say no to Tussin… unless you’re coming down with pneumonia.