The large billboard on Auckland's motorway sporting an anti-vaccination message is being removed.

The sign, which went up yesterday, was located by the Southern Motorway near the Princes St off-ramp near Middlemore Hospital.

The sign showed a man holding a baby with the message: "If you knew the ingredients in a vaccine, would you risk it?"

Since the sign was erected Advertising Standards Authority had received over 140 complaints and they were "still floating in".


Advertising Standards Authority chief executive Hilary Souter said ASA had contacted the advertiser to respond to the complaints, giving them five days before a decision on whether it was a breach was decided.

At 3.30pm, Ad-Vantage Media director Duncan Harris told the Herald his guys were out there removing it as we spoke.

"We were a bit naive to the issue and we didn't expect such an emotional topic. The location, being near the hospital, wasn't right for the billboard so we made the call to remove it."

He said everyone had a right to freedom of speech but now he had got "up to speed on the issue" it was a "lesson learnt".

Warnings Against Vaccine Expectations (WAVES) NZ, which paid for the ad, believes that natural immunity is a superior defence to illness than vaccinations from medical professionals.

WAVES NZ spokeswoman Erin Hudson said the complaints against the billboard had been quite vicious, aggressive and ugly.

"We are surprised with at how vicious the response has been in regards to the question. We will be defending the complaints next week because in actual fact informed consent is the basis of our billboard," Hudson said.

She said they did not want the billboard to be removed, but the company was taking it down out of fear for staff wellbeing, its premises and future business.


On Twitter, Emma Espiner said in a tweet she would lodge a complaint with Advertising Standard Authority.

Grant Jacobs chimed in, saying: "These things confuse first-time parents who understandably worry about what they ought to be doing."

"Seems very irresponsible of the advertising agency to allow it there in the first place," Lance O'Riley said.

A Reddit thread has also been created, with people opposing the billboard. The thread had more than 200 comments.

Several have argued that the billboard breaches two parts of the Advertising Standards Authority's basic principles.

Those two parts being "No advertisement should be misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive the consumer" and "All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society".

A Counties Manukau District Health Board spokeswoman said the DHB had no direct relationship with the billboard.

"We do not support anti-vaccine messages," the spokeswoman said.

"We promote vaccination as a proven step to prevent illness in both children and adults."

WAVES NZ Spokesperson Truly Godfrey said the billboard was erected following the deaths of Lannacallystah Samuelu and Lameko Si'u in Samoa following a MMR vaccination.

"Of course some people are wanting the billboard removed but it does not breach any laws, so they are in for a fight."

Dr Stewart Jessamine told the Herald following the death of the two children that the Ministry of Health did not know where Samoa sourced its MMR vaccine from, but confirmed it was not supplied from New Zealand.

"New Zealand currently uses a brand of MMR vaccine called Priorix. It's made mostly in France and Belgium and tested there before it's sent to New Zealand.

"It's monitored along the way to make sure it's kept at a constant safe temperature until it's administered to patients.''

Jessamine stressed that the MMR vaccine in New Zealand had an excellent safety profile and had been used without significant problem for several decades.

University of Auckland vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris said one death, let alone two, was extremely rare, and there had never been a death associated with the MMR vaccine in New Zealand.

Petousis-Harris acknowledged that there could now be fears from parents about the safety of vaccines and immunisations.

But she said it was important for people to understand that the vaccine programme was a very safe one in New Zealand.

"The last thing you want is for people to be fearful of something that we know is actually incredibly safe."