The new electoral law has forced the Ministry of Health to keep its advertising for the cervical cancer vaccination programme at a low level until after the election.
The human papilloma virus vaccination programme starts next month.
The ministry acknowledged yesterday that because of nervousness about falling foul of the Electoral Finance Act, it was sticking to just brochures and posters for primary health care centres - until after the poll.
Not until November and December will it crank up its full promotional campaign, including TV, radio, print and online advertising, for its vaccination programme with Gardasil, which protects against four strains of HPV, two of which are linked to 70 per cent of cervical cancers.
The Government has committed $177 million over five years to the programme, which offers free vaccination to girls and young women born in 1990 or later.
The ministry and other government agencies were told by the State Services Commission, following the passing of the Electoral Finance Act last year, to be cautious not to publish any "election advertisement".
In the three months before an election - November 15 is the latest the poll can be held - government agencies "may need to consider whether some planned advertising or communications activities are necessary during this time, or whether they should be deferred".
The ministry's deputy director of public health, Fran McGrath, said last night that in developing its promotion of the vaccination programme, it took guidance from the commission and Office of the Auditor-General, plus legal advice.
"The content and timing of what the ministry planned did not need to be changed."
Mike Taylor, country manager of CSL Biotherapies New Zealand, the vaccine supplier, said the company would advertise to young women on billboards and possibly on radio from September 1.
Because of the act, the company had consulted lawyers to avoid the ads being construed as electoral support for the Government.
"Our intention is to publicise a public health initiative. It's not to go out and connect this in any way to the Government or the Labour Party," he said.
"We won't be giving the size of the investment, the reason for it, or who it's made by. It's about the HPV immunisation campaign and the connection Gardasil has to that. There's no reference at all to a Labour-led initiative ... hopefully that gets us under the radar. It's an unknown. There's a certain amount of risk in this."
"[Our legal] advice is we do need to be careful: as long as we are not referring to the Government, and not connecting them to this campaign, we should be okay."By Martin Johnston Email Martin