Update: Delta still running anti-vax ads in-flight

Over the last week and a half, Delta has received over 3000 complaints about them running in-flight PSA’s for the dubiously-named anti-vaccine organization, the National Vaccine Information Center.

The ad features a dismissal of the seriousness and pervasiveness of the flu virus, followed by advice to wash your hands and exercise and take your vitamins and then advice to maybe consider the flu vaccine while showing screen shots of the NVIC’s website featuring links like “Gardasil: The Damage Continues” and “Mercury in Vaccines” then instructing Delta’s passengers to visit NVIC’s website for more information on vaccines. (More information on the ad can be found in my previous Action Alert.)

I started a petition at and had people tweet @Delta and @DeltaAssist, Delta’s customer service account, to complain using the hashtag #FluDelta. The American Academy of Pediatrics got involved, as they did when NVIC ran an ad in Times Square last spring, writing a letter on behalf of their 60,000 members condemning the ad. And the story is making headlines around the world.

And Delta responded…

Dear Doctor Block,
Thank you for contacting Delta. We value customer feedback and appreciate you taking the time to contact us. Please allow me to share some background with you regarding the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) video spot running on some Delta aircraft this month.
Earlier this year, NVIC purchased video advertising space on some of our overhead in-flight entertainment systems. The three-minute segment,which ends its run on Delta flights during the month of November, ispart of a show we call Lifestyle 365 and focuses on flu prevention.
Since the ad began running, we have learned of e-mails, online petitions and other social media channels pushing for the removal of the spot claiming that it is an anti-vaccine advertisement that discourages people from receiving the influenza vaccine.
Based on customer feedback, Delta felt it important to review the episode with the occupational health department to better understand perception of the video. After doing so, we acknowledge to you that the video doesn’t support vaccination as the key preventative measure for influenza.
Therefore, we have changed our internal review processes and procedures to help ensure that submitted content is vetted differently going forward. We recognize that while the views represented in Lifestyle 365 do not necessarily match those of Delta, we have a responsibility to our customer to ensure all programming is relevant, accurate and does not lend itself to interpretation.
Our December public service announcement topic is “Every Child By /Two(ECBT)  which encourages vaccinations at an early age.

Again, customer feedback is very important to us and we appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns. Please let us know if you have any further questions and as always thank you for flying Delta.
Very sincerely,

Barbara Martin, RN

General Manager, Occupational Health

Delta Air Lines

So Delta is going to change their review process, but is not going to remove the ads. They don’t really see anything much wrong with the ads except that they could do more to promote the flu shot… do more? Do more like what? Like not running the voice-over against anti-vaccine headlines? Like not asking their passengers to get more vaccine information from an anti-vaccine group?

I was willing to give Delta the benefit of the doubt, but in an article at that ran over the weekend, NVIC’s executive director Barbara Loe Fisher claims Delta requested that they run the ad in flight:

Fisher told ABC News she was shocked to hear that Delta is reviewing its approval method.

“This is the first time I’ve heard about it, it’s a little concerning to me,” said Lowe [sic], who added that the airline initially approached her organization about creating the PSA for its flights.

So did Delta know who the NVIC were and ask them to run a PSA, understanding what the NVIC’s message is? Or is Barbara Loe Fisher lying? If she’s telling the truth, then Delta has some serious explaining to do. It means that an international airline feels comfortable rolling the dice with your life by promoting anti-vax propaganda. The NVIC may or may not necessarily represent the views of Delta, but that doesn’t really matter when you’re sitting on a plane full of infected travelers, spreading their germs to fellow passengers and to everyone they come into contact with while traveling.

Just ten years ago, measles was eradicated in the United States. Today it’s back, hospitalizing and even killing children, because of people who refuse to vaccinate and those people traveling internationally. And now we have a major airline encouraging people to continue refusing vaccines.

Yes, next month, Delta will be running an ad for Every Child By Two, an excellent vaccine advocacy organization, but how much damage will already have been done?

What can you do now?

  • Sign and share the petition if you haven’t yet. If you have, share it again.
  • Keep tweeting @DeltaAssist and @Delta using the hashtag #FluDelta. Let them know that simply changing their review process is not enough. They need to pull the ad completely and refuse to run similar ads in the future.
  • If you normally travel Delta, contact them and inform them that you will be switching airlines until they: 1. Pull the ad. 2. Apologize.  3. Agree not to run anti-vaccine ads in flight again.
  • Contact executives at Delta. Let them know that you are unsatisfied with their response.

Already booked a flight with Delta and cannot afford to re-book?



Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I don’t think anyone is lying here. Delta wants to make money and I presume has a sales team that sells advertising time. They probably approached NVIC (as Fisher claims) about doing a PSA. We don’t know if the sales team knew the NVIC agenda or not. Like many “anti-” anything groups, their name suggests the opposite of what they believe. So the NVIC bought some time and became a paying customer. Now that Delta realizes what happened, they promise to be more selective in the future. But they have a contract with NVIC, so at this point in time the ads will end soon anyway and rather than risk a law suit, they will let them run to the end of the contract. Too bad they won’t cancel, though.

  2. The funny part is: If contagious diseases really make a return to the world, what business would be most affected?
    Correct: the airline industry (think SARS, bird flu etc)

    Ok, it’s also very sad…

  3. “The three-minute segment,which ends its run on Delta flights during the month of November”

    Delta isn’t removing the ad, I can surmise, because the NVIC already paid for the spots and they’ll be done this month (November) anyway. So, there isn’t much to remove. To remove the ads, they would have to replace the material with other video footage, which would require all sorts of corporate process and procedure to review, approve and place the video material. By the time anything like that could reasonably be done, it would be December anyway.

    That’s my theory, anyway. For Delta to review their process seems appropriate. They’re basically saying this won’t happen again. That seems to be appropriate.

  4. It’s too bad that they won’t take the ad down immediately, but it will run its course and hopefully be the last one they run. I’ll go sign the petition. Ultimately, you made a huge difference with your actions. Great job!

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