Mayor John Tory is acknowledging that a video produced by city staff which was meant to encourage COVID-19 vaccination for kids but sparked anger “missed the mark.”
“I think they did not hit the right note. I think they missed the mark,” Tory told reporters at a news conference for a food drive Thursday.
He went on to say that “whatever the approval process was, it wasn't good enough” and noted that no elected officials were involved in the decisions around the ad.
In the video, a little girl is seen looking out of a window wanting to play with her friends. She asks her mother if she can do so, but the mother is heard telling her that she can’t because “something is still going around.”
The city posted the ad on YouTube Friday but quickly retracted it.
Some who oppose childhood vaccination hailed the move as a victory, while others slammed the city for taking it down. Others were simply left confused about the message the video was trying to send.
Speaking with CP24 Thursday morning, infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the video sent the wrong message in the most basic way.
“Let's just start with — we've been saying this for God, over two years now — where is COVID transmitted and how is COVID transmitted?” Bogoch said. “Remember, COVID is primarily transmitted through the air between people, usually in closer proximity to each other, and almost always in indoor settings, not exclusively, but almost exclusively in indoor settings. Out of doors is the safest place to be for COVID.”
Further, he said kids should be encouraged to be playing with others outdoors as it provides benefits in terms of physical activity and social interaction, benefits that were sorely lacking during lockdown.
The video was part of a series which cost the city around $20,000 to produce.
Tory suggested that while the message might need to be fine-tuned, some of the work on the series might still be re-purposed.
“It may well be that a lot of that content can be repurposed and done in a way that solves some of these problems,” he said.
He said staff are going to “go back to the drawing board” on both the ads themselves and the approval process.
While the ad sent the wrong message, Tory said the effort to encourage vaccination for everyone who is eligible remains an important effort on the part of the city.
“We're trying very hard as a city to encourage people to get vaccinated, especially children who need that protection, I believe, and to do it in a safe way and our vaccination efforts as a city will continue,” he said.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) currently recommends a primary series of mRNA vaccines for anyone six months or older to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. In Ontario, the vaccines became available for kids between six months and five years of age in July.