Important compliance for COVID-19 vaccine advertising

Important compliance for COVID-19 vaccine advertising

March 3, 2021 Uncategorized

This article will provide you some information about how to advertise COVID-19 vaccines in compliant with Australian laws

The advertising of prescribed medicines including vaccines is generally banned in Australia. Nevertheless, there are still some exceptions like the use of authorised materials to support the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines nation-wide in Australia

As part of the Australian Government Department of Health, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates the advertisement of therapeutic goods in Australia. That explains how vaccine providers and other parties can advertise and promote COVID-19 legally without possibly breaching the ban on advertisement of prescribed medicines.

Consultations are not subject to advertising requirements

Information discussed between a doctor, pharmacist or nurse and their patient during consultation or treatment is exempt from the advertising requirements for therapeutic goods including the ban on advertising prescribed medicines. For example, if a patient seeks advice from their doctors for which brand of vaccines they are going to receive, the doctors can advise the patients without potentially breaching the advertisement rules.

How to advertise COVID-19 vaccines lawfully

A range of government advertisement content can be used to provide information and promote COVID-19 vaccines to consumers, and to facilitate access to the vaccines. People who want to advertise the vaccines, including doctors and pharmacists, can add to the material to provide advice to consumers on when and where the vaccines can be accessed to.

Specifically, it is allowed to:

  • use Australian Government produced materials to promote COVID-19 vaccines
  • use materials produced by Australian state or territory governments to promote COVID-19 vaccines
  • add factual information to government materials to assist the public in obtaining the vaccine such as:
    • the location of the COVID-19 vaccination service
    • times vaccines are administered or opening hours of the service provider
    • whether there is a need for an appointment to receive the vaccination and how to make one
  • provide the factual information listed above, independently to government materials, to assist the public in obtaining the vaccine.

Government produced materials may be used in all communication channels including on websites, as flyers, in newsletters, in social media or emails, or as posters in the windows and on the walls at vaccine providers, clinics, pharmacies, and other businesses.

In using government materials to promote COVID-19 vaccines, advertisers must be careful not to add:

  • the tradename and/or active ingredient of the specific vaccine
  • statements or the implication that harmful effects will result from not receiving the vaccine
  • statements or the implication that the vaccine offered is superior to other vaccines (e.g. a statement about the efficacy against a particular strain)
  • incentives to encourage a consumer to obtain the service or vaccine
  • any comparisons between vaccines (even if supported by evidence)

Advertisers must not:

  • use self-developed advertising about COVID-19 vaccines

In regulating the advertising of therapeutic goods the TGA uses a range of compliance approaches from education and assisted compliance through to more serious compliance action such as issuing directions, fines or pursuing court action.

Factual and balanced information may not be advertising

Presenting factual and balanced information about the COVID-19 vaccines is unlikely to be considered as advertising or promotional, subject to the context in which the information is presented. Some examples of this include:

  • a doctor providing their general view in relation to vaccination broadly (provided they do not promote individual vaccines – COVID-19 or otherwise)
  • technical information relating to how the vaccines were developed and manufactured
  • sharing scientific reports from reputable sources (like the World Health Organization) about vaccination
  • re-tweeting or sharing valuable news-worthy information from reputable sources about the COVID-19 vaccines that would not have the effect of promoting the vaccines; or
  • presenting comprehensive information that doesn’t emphasise the benefits over, for example, the risks and limitations.

As a general guideline, if the content persuades consumers, for example through the use of promotional terms or language, to seek out COVID-19 vaccines, then it would be considered advertising.

Further information

Source: TGA

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Devi M:

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