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Graphic COVID-19 Health Ad by Australian Government Sparks Backlash


  • The Australian Department of Health aired a controversial ad encouraging residents to get vaccinated.
  • Critics slammed the ad for apparently depicting a young woman while vaccine eligibility in the country is restricted to people over 40.
  • “Scaring young people that can’t get vaccines is not helpful,” one Twitter user wrote.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On Sunday night, the Australian government ran a graphic health advertisement encouraging residents to get vaccinated. It has since sparked backlash for depicting a patient who appears to be too young to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Australia.

Following a brief warning that the video will depict “a representation of a severe COVID-19 illness,” the 30-second advertisement showed a young woman wearing an oxygen mask and gasping for air.

“COVID-19 can affect anyone. Stay home. Get tested. Book your vaccination,” the advertisement read.

The health advertisement was criticized for appearing to portray a subject who may be too young to receive the vaccine in Australia. People over the age of 40 are currently eligible for the vaccine in Australia, while those ages 16 to 39 “may be eligible for vaccination,” per the Australian Government Department of Health

“Completely offensive to run an ad like this when Australians in this age group are still waiting for their bloody vaccinations,” journalist Hugh Riminton tweeted.

“Scaring young people that can’t get vaccines is not helpful,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another user commented that the ad was “effective but terrifying given younger Australians like myself are still not eligible to be vaccinated.”

Health consultant Bill Bowtell told The Sydney Morning Herald that the ad “does not authentically convey the reality of a person with COVID,” and called for it to be pulled off the air.

In response to the backlash, the Australian government defended the ad.

During a news conference Sunday, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly acknowledged that the ad was “quite graphic, and it’s meant to be graphic.”

“We are only doing this because of the (COVID-19) situation,” Kelly said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also addressed the backlash in conversation with CNN affiliate Sky News Australia, saying that “our very critics were saying that the advertising needed to be stronger, far stronger, even making references to grim reapers.”

“[The ad] has two messages… one is to stay at home,” Morrison added. “We can’t be complacent about this. And young people moving around the city was putting people at risk right across the community, including themselves.”

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