NEWS
02/27/2019 14:39 EST | Updated 02/28/2019 15:47 EST

'Dangerous' Anti-Vax Ads In Toronto Being Taken Down

Billboard company confirmed it's pulling them early.

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A doctor injects a vaccine to into a baby boy. Vaccines do not cause autism, and are are critical to stopping the spread of disease, say public health officials across Canada.

A series of anti-vaccine advertisements across the city are being taken down.

Outfront Media, the company that owns the billboard space, confirmed to HuffPost Canada on Wednesday afternoon. A spokesperson declined to say why the ads on more-than-50 billboards were pulled early.

The move comes after Councillor Joe Cressy, chair of Toronto's board of health, called the ads "flat out dangerous" and said he was talking to the city's legal department for advice about their possible removal.

The digital advertisements questioned the safety and necessity of vaccines and were put up on Feb. 21, according to the group's vice-president Ted Kuntz's Facebook page. The campaign was supposed to be two weeks.

The city had said advertising content on signs is not enforced by the city's bylaw.

"The purpose of Toronto's sign bylaw is to enable the fair and consistent use and enforcement of signs," said municipal licensing and standards spokesperson Ellen Leesti. The city ensures signs are the right size, properly installed, do not create traffic hazards and do not negatively impact nearby property.

Watch: Measles outbreak linked to anti-vaccination movement. Story continues below

The two-week campaign, featuring four different images and making two million impressions, was paid for through donations made by Canadians who "support the medical ethic of informed consent," Kuntz said in an email.

The advertisements represented a recent surge of anti-vaccine rhetoric across Canada, the United States, and Europe, and coinciding with a measles outbreak in Vancouver. Measles is one of the most highly contagious respiratory infectious diseases, and, until recently, thought to be eradicated in Canada.

In Vancouver there are 12 confirmed cases, according to the city's public health agency. It started when an unvaccinated child was infected during a family trip to Vietnam.

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The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

An advertising campaign like the one in Toronto hasn't happened in Vancouver to the knowledge of public health officials.

Kuntz said the term "anti-vaccine" misrepresents what Vaccine Choice Canada is all about, which is to inform Canadians about the perceived risks of vaccines. However, scientists and health professionals agree there is no connection between vaccines and autism, or other diseases.

"Vaccines are very safe, work very well and are necessary to protect the health of individuals and populations," said Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health with Toronto Public Health. "Immunization has saved more children's lives than any other health care intervention. Ads that misrepresent vaccines are not helpful to the public, or to parents."

Cressy said Public health will continue to come forward "with a strong response" against the harmful anti-vaccine messaging.

"We aren't going to be able to correct misinformation overnight but given the profound impacts, we have a fundamental responsibility to correct it," he said.

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This story has been updated to include Outfront Media's decision to take down the advertisements.