Anti-vaccination group accused of preying on Māori and Pacific people with controversial billboard

A New Zealand-based anti-vaccination group has placed a billboard beside a busy stretch of State Highway 1 in South Auckland, and in just over 24 hours it has already garnered plenty of attention and controversy.

"Okay time to get a big arse ladder and rip that disgraceful excuse for free speech down!" wrote former New Zealander of the year Dr Lance O'Sullivan, a passionate advocate for vaccinating children.

The signage was paid for by a group called Warnings About Vaccine Expectations, or WAVES. It poses the question: "If you knew the ingredients in a vaccine, would you RISK it?"

Organisation spokesman Truly Godfrey said on Facebook that the impetus for the billboard was "the tragic deaths of two babies in Samoa and the revelations that no safety reports have been provided since 1986 in the United States, despite government agencies being tasked with doing so".

But "there's no scientific evidence to back up the truth in this" said Māori Public health advocate and medical student Chloe Fergusson-Tibble, who stood in front of the billboard near Otahuhu yesterday and filmed a Facebook Live that encouraged the community to stand up and protest the sign.

"So basically, whanau, it is an anti-vax billboard that is in an at-risk community, where there is a high population of Māori and Pacific people who are being preyed on," she said. "There's clearly a brown person on that billboard who is being utilised to get a message across in a vulnerable community.

"Vaccines have saved billions and trillions of lives. If there's one thing that we've learned this far at medical school it's that...We want this billboard removed."

Her message was endorsed by Dr O'Sullivan, who has had high-profile confrontations with WAVES in the past.

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The Northland doctor opens up about the reaction to his protest over the screening of an anti-vaccination movie. Source: Breakfast

Last year, the Northland doctor jumped on stage at a screening in Kaitaia of anti-vaccine documentary Vaxxed, accusing organisers of contributing to child deaths through misinformation before performing a defiant haka.

The film was widely criticised by the scientific community upon its release, with various reviews saying it cherry-picked facts, relied on unsubstantiated claims and used emotional pleas and context-free statistics to get its message across.

Perth saw a similar billboard controversy in August, with Western Australia's health minister calling the anti-vaccination message "dangerous and misleading", according to News Corp Australia.

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Tricia Cheel held another public screening of Vaxxed last night, days after Dr Lance O'Sullivan interrupted a Kaitaia screening. Source: Breakfast