An anti-vax advertisement has popped up at a Brooklyn, New York, bus stop, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has no idea how it got there.
The ad, found at the corner of Kingston Ave and Carroll Street in Crown Heights, reads “Top Ten Reasons Not To Get Vaccinated Against Covid-19.” It features a lengthy list full of unverified fearmongering, like “It Could Kill You” and “The Shot Promotes The Spread of Covid-19,” while also promoting false claims that the covid-19 vaccine “has killed an untold number of babies,” that “half a million” people may have died from the vaccine in the United States, and that “children do not die of Covid-19, thank G-d.” (Tell that to the parents of children who have died from covid-19.)
Jezebel reached out to the New York City Department of Transportation for an explanation. DOT’s Chief Communications Officer, Seth Stein, directed us to his most recent tweet addressing the controversy.
“ICYMI: This ad was NOT sold by our franchisee @jcdecauxusa,” Stein wrote. “It is being removed immediately. Most likely someone popped open the glass. Investigation ongoing. Disinformation has no place in our city, or our street furniture.”
JCDecaux America also released a statement:
This morning, JCDecaux became aware of an anti-vax creative placed in one of our NYC bus shelters in an unauthorized manner. JCDecaux did not approve or install this message, which violates the advertising program guidelines & deprives the lawful advertiser of their ad space. This disinformation is unwelcome on our street furniture. We are replacing it immediately with authorized copy and will replace any other such unauthorized copy that we become aware of.
The ad is located in a section of Crown Heights that has a significant Orthodox Jewish and Hasidic population. This community has long been resistant to vaccinations, as evidenced by a Measles outbreak back in 2019, and covid-19 vaccination has received similar pushback and hesitancy. In June, the New York Times published a story about how women in Orthodox Jewish communities don’t want to be vaccinated due to unsubstantiated rumors about the covid-19 vaccine causing infertility. It will likely get noticed by Crown Heights’s large Black population too, some of whom are rightfully concerned about medical racism and could be vulnerable to charlatans who peddle lies about the covid-19 vaccine.
Most galling is that the ad is nearly identical in format, color scheme, and font to a New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene ad promoting the “Top Ten Reasons to Get Vaccinated Against Covid-19,” which has been spotted in neighborhoods like Borough Park, another Brooklyn neighborhood that is home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities outside of Israel. Macabin, the organization behind the ad, is clearly targeting and deceiving its audience perfectly.
“Open your eyes to the grave dangers to our health, life, and freedom by those who pretend to have our best interest at heart,” the ad reads. “Stand together and say “NO!” to the vaccine mandates. REFUSE to be injected with a poisonous substance in order to travel to Israel or live your normal life.”
Macabin’s website describes its group as “doctors and scientists united to save humanity.” Its members include people like Ryan Cole MD, who is under investigation by the Washington Medical Commission for spreading covid-19 misinformation; Dr. Christine Northrup, who the Portland Press Herald called a “Doctor of Disinformation;” Thomas Renz, an Ohio attorney who, according to a profile by the Washington Post, has accused the government and pharmaceutical companies of murdering people in the pursuit of defending the covid-19 vaccine; and Dr. Vladimir Zev Zelenko, a man who became a right-wing superstar in the early days of the pandemic after touting hydroxychloroquine as a wonder drug in the fight against covid-19. (It’s not.) Most of the people on this list can be discredited by simply Googling their name, but they’re revered as truthseekers among anti-vaxxers, maligned by nefarious government entities and Big Pharma goons. In reality, they’re simply maligned by science.
As of November 30, 2021, over one million inhabitants of New York City have contracted covid-19, and nearly 35,000 have died. Mask mandates, coupled with high vaccination rates, have helped significantly lower the city’s hospitalization rate and death toll, but this is still a city forever haunted by the early months of the pandemic. Hospitals were overflowing with patients and bodies alike, and sirens squealed incessantly day and night. These deceptive ads are promoting a return to that horror under the guise of bodily autonomy and religious liberty, and far too many vulnerable communities will buy into it.