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Australia | Graphic COVID-19 vaccination ad shows patient gasping for air; faces backlash

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

-In Australia, an ad that showed the repercussions of non-vaccination has caused a massive stir with locals voicing discontent over the graphic content displayed

The government in Australia has faced a backlash for releasing a controversial advertisement showing a young woman gasping for breath while on a ventilator.

The 'graphic and confronting' ad has sparked a debate on social media as people called out the footage for alleged 'fear mongering'. The nearly 30-second advertisement was released as a part of the $30 million ($40 million, Aus) campaign which was released on July 11 to felicitate the vaccination among the hesitant population. It shows a woman roughly in her 20s or 30s intubated in the ICU struggling for her life.

The footage opens with a disclaimer: "WARNING: The following video is a representation of severe COVID-19 illness. Some viewers may find the video distressing, viewer discretion is advised." the patient is devoid of any medical assistance or the hospital staff around as she battles the chest distress symptoms for approximately 20 seconds. "Stay home. Get tested. Book your vaccination," the government advisory reads.

The Australian Health and advertising experts were on fire for projecting the fears and life-threatening scenario of the deadly SARS-CoV-2, deemed as insensitive by the experts and critics. The ad campaign aims to target Sydney-siders amid the worsening COVID-19 outbreak as the federal government plans to speed up the vaccinations due to the largest spikes in infections from the hypervirulent Delta variant of the coronavirus. 'Covid-19 can affect anyone…Book your vaccination,' reads the title to the advertisement.

The Australians contested the ad citing that only people over 40 were authorized to get the AstraZeneca vaccine and that the younger population was advised by the healh ministry to get the alternative Pfizer vaccine, which can be administered only by the end of the year 2021 due to the ongoing shortage. Moreover, the NSW Chief Health Officer made comments at the presser saying that the latest outbreak was a "wake-up call" for young people, which brewed further controversy among the young Australians.

She further suggested that the Australians must have a "chat with your GP" and "risk-based decision" regarding AstraZeneca, notwithstanding that the youngsters were not eligible to get that specific jab. Australian labelled the comments as "gaslighting" as they called the campaign "needlessly cruel". The ad entitled “Don’t Be Complacent” was run across all platforms including television, radio as well as a digital platform.

"Defending the ad, Australian PM Scott Morrison said in televised remarks with Sky News Australia, "I know that, and it was only a few weeks ago that our very critics were saying that the advertising needed to be stronger, far stronger, even making references to grim reapers."

He further continued in the live-streamed address, "[The ad] has two messages, one is to stay at home. 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."

Ad part of “Arm Yourself” campaign

As Australia registered over 112 new cases of the Delta variant on July 12, Morrison's government had been vouching to get the reluctant population to get jabbed in a series of ad campaigns launched this Sunday with the opposition leaders objecting to the 'graphic' side of the content. The federal government released the “Arm Yourself” campaign, featuring upper arms with band aid post-vaccination.

The ad, which is part of the campaign, appealed to the general Australian to get the vaccine "yourself" “your family”, “your community”. Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, defended the advertisement's portrayal during a news conference Sunday saying that the ad is quite graphic, and "it's meant to be graphic," adding that the feds were doing this "because of the (Covid-19) situation."

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