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An anti-vaccine advertisement appeared at a bus stop shelter in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on Thursday, December 2, and city officials say someone installed the misinformation sticker without permission.
The sign at bus stop B43 on Kingston Street and Carroll Street lists the “Top 10 Reasons to Not Vaccinate against COVID-19” and lists a website and contact phone number below.
A man who answered the phone claimed he was not connected to the publisher, and asked this reporter to contact the organization “directly.”
An email to the address listed on the organization’s website was not immediately returned.
The sign was designed to look exactly like an advertising campaign by the city’s health department and Jewish health groups to encourage vaccination, which a New York Times reporter spotted in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood.
Here’s the original I caught at a bus stop in Borough Park pic.twitter.com/LntgDshWfV
– Michael Gould (migold) December 2, 2021
The misleading poster in Crown Heights was first discovered by a local who took a picture of it and posted it on Twitter where it quickly went viral.
“I stopped and turned when I saw what was on the ad,” said Alison H., who asked that her full name not be released.
She sees other passersby stopping to read it, which worries her that they will begin to believe lies about vaccines.
“This shows how misinformation can get in the way and defeat public health guidance,” she said.
The sign and its shelter are managed by the city’s Department of Transportation through a public-private partnership with billboard company JCDecaux.
Department of Transportation spokesperson Seth Stein said in a social media post that the ad was not sold by the franchisor and that it was removed “immediately”.
“Most likely someone opened the glass. Disinformation has no place in our city, or our street furniture,” Stein wrote on Twitter.
A JCDecaux spokesperson said it was an “unauthorized” mark and that the company had not received payment for it.
“The design you are referring to was not installed by JCDecaux but was placed in a bus shelter in an unauthorized manner. JCDecaux has not approved, installed or received the copy,” Joseph Hodge said in an emailed statement. “The copy violates the program’s advertising guidelines and strips the legitimate advertiser of its ad space. We are immediately replacing it with an approved copy and will replace any other unauthorized copy that we become aware of.”
The Crown Heights zip code where the bus stop (11231) has a lower-than-average vaccination rate, at just 60% for at least one dose and 53% for both shots, compared to 77.1% and 69.5% citywide, according to the city health department.
COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in preventing severe illness or death from the virus and limiting its spread. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.