- An Australian anti-vaxx group was told to stop using the World Health Organization logo on their press materials.
- The post, which the WHO branded "misleading," has now been shared over 8,000 times on Facebook.
- The group responded by saying their press release "went viral because it told the truth about vaccination," and that the WHO "was shamed because their own representatives revealed the truth when they thought nobody else would see them."
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An Australian anti-vaccination group has been told by the World Health Organization to stop using the WHO name and logo on their press releases.
It comes after the Australian Vaccination-Risks Network shared a statement on January 18, 2020, which was made to look like part of the WHO's Global Vaccine Safety Summit website, a two-day event to debate improving access to vaccines, not the efficacy of vaccines overall.
The post, which the WHO branded "misleading," has now been shared over 8,000 times on Facebook.
Buzzfeed reported that WHO's legal counsel Derek Walton told AVN they must make it "abundantly clear" that their press release was not approved by the WHO. Walton added that using the screenshot "gives the misleading impression that it is an official press release" approved by the WHO, which is widely considered to be world's most prominent authority on health.
"A common tactic for anti-vaccination activists is to misuse or take statements out of context, as part of a systematic attempt to discredit vaccines," WHO communications officer Laura Keenan told BuzzFeed News, saying that the press release cherry-picked quotes professor Heidi Larson to make it seem like doctors weren't properly informed about vaccines.
In a blog post on the AVN site, the organization wrote that the post "went viral because it told the truth about vaccination," and that the WHO "was shamed because their own representatives revealed the truth when they thought nobody else would see them."
While AVN removed the screenshot of the WHO website, it has been replaced with a photograph of the official letter from the WHO asking that their logo and name be removed from all AVN materials.
Anti-vaxx sentiment is on the rise in other countries as well
Australia isn't the only country with anti-vaccination sentiments. In France, a 2019 survey revealed that one-in-three people thought vaccines were unsafe. That same survey revealed that in Ukraine, only half of its citizens believe vaccines work. And at least 20% of residents in Armenia, Belgium, Austria, Iceland, Russia, and Switzerland all thought vaccinations weren't safe.
In Germany, there were enough anti-vaxx parents that authorities passed a line saying parents had to prove their children were vaccinated or risk having to pay a fine and lose their children's place in school. Italy passed legislation making 10 childhood vaccinations mandatory. In France, 11 vaccines are now mandatory for children.
After doctor Andrew Wakefield published a now-discredited 1998 study linking the MMR vaccine — used to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella — with autism, distrust of vaccines began to grow.
In 2019, the World Health Organisation named the anti-vaccination movement as one of their top ten global health threats. Studies show hesitation to vaccinate can lead to disease outbreaks and deaths from preventable diseases.
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