08/31/2012 01:32 EDT | Updated 10/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Ad for herbal whooping cough remedy ordered retracted

A Vancouver-area health official has ordered the retraction of an advertisement that he says suggests oil of oregano is an option to prevent whooping cough instead of vaccination.

The newspaper ad published Thursday shows a broken syringe and reads, “The natural way to help combat whooping cough.... It's nice to know vaccines aren't the only choice to combat this disease.”

Dr. Paul Van Buynder, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Fraser Health Authority, has sent a letter to Enerex Botanicals Ltd., of Coquitlam, B.C., ordering the company to, “publish an immediate retraction, at your expense in the Vancouver Sun, and in any other media outlet in which the same or similar advertisement was published.”

Van Buynder said the retraction must state that oil of oregano has not been shown to be as effective as vaccination in the management of outbreaks of whooping cough, or pertussis, and has not been shown to prevent the transmission of pertussis at all.

The order also calls for the company to apologize for “misleading the public” in the advertisements. Van Buynder said in the letter he is authorized to issue the order under the Public Health Act.

Van Buynder told CBC News the ad could undermine how dangerous the disease is, especially given the higher than usual rates of infection of whooping cough in the Lower Mainland.

“We believe it's important that parents understand the scientific basis of vaccines and that it does need to happen to protect their children,” he said.

“That's why we don't want to see advertisements suggesting that it's not required and that some oil product is the equivalent to a vaccine.”

Van Buynder said that by telling people the vaccine wasn't required, the company has essentially promoted the continuation of an infectious disease and is minimizing the capacity of authorities to deal with the outbreak.

A spokesman for Enerex Botanicals acknowledged it had received the letter, but declined to comment.