Australians are divided over a "graphic" new advertisement aimed at showing people the confronting reality of Covid as NSW battles its latest outbreak, which saw 77 new local cases announced on Sunday.
The ad, which comes with a warning and depicts "a representation of severe Covid-19 illness", shows a distressed young woman in a hospital bed struggling to breath while hooked up to a machine.
Australia's Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly told reporters on Sunday the ad would be airing that night and described it as "graphic".
"We are only doing this because of the situation in Sydney and it will be running in Sydney," Professor Kelly said.
"The messages will be clear: stay at home, get tested and booked in for a vaccination.
"It is quite graphic and it is meant to be graphic, it is meant to really push that message home."
A clip of the ad was shared by political correspondent Karen Barlow on Twitter, drawing more than 384 comments and 1000 retweets in the three hours after it was tweeted.
Many online pointed out the woman in the ad was under 40 and if people in that age group were the target of this they would not be eligible for the vaccine anyway.
"Would probably help if the person in the ad was able to get vaccinated in the first place," one person wrote.
"This is a disgrace – no health professionals would allow anyone to suffer like this & WHERE ARE THE VACCINES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE? (sic)," another said.
Author Jill Stark echoed their remarks.
"This is so messed up. Why would you use a young person in your scary ad warning them they could get seriously ill with COVID when young people currently can’t get vaccinated because your own government has monumentally botched the vaccine rollout?" she wrote.
"What an absolute shambles."
One of the most vocal people against the ad was UNSW Strategic Health Policy Consultant Adjunct Professor Bill Bowtell.
"This ad should be immediately taken off air. Today in Sydney a young girl with Covid – about the same age as the actor in the ad – is on a ventilator fighting for her life," he said.
"This insensitive ad can only distress her family and friends. It is misconceived in every way."
Another Twitter user, who said they were an ICU specialist, wrote in response to the ad: "As an ICU specialist please know that we’d never deliberately let you suffer like that. We’d try to get increased support before it got that bad.
"People do get breathless like this – it's scary and would usually trigger an emergency response.
"I'd hate to think that people believe we leave patients like this. It has happened in places when resources run short – it's harrowing."
"It's like a scene from the horror movie Hereditary," someone else added.
Ad guru defends 'graphic' Covid advertisement
Siimon Reynolds, who was the advertising guru behind the confronting 1987 Grim Reaper campaign which was in response to the AIDS crisis, weighed in on the new ad and another national one, which has been dubbed the "Arm Yourself" campaign.
This second ad shows a series of people's biceps with a band-aid stuck on their arms and urges people to book in their vaccination.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was unimpressed by the "Arm Yourself" ad.
"We have been saying for some time that there needed to be a public information campaign but I'm not sure that this cuts it, frankly," he told ABC's Insiders program on Sunday.
Mr Reynolds agreed with Mr Albanese about the "Arm Yourself" campaign, but he was more optimistic about the new ad touted by Prof Kelly.
"They are two very different ads. The first one, the 'arm yourself against the vaccine', is super weak. I mean, it says nothing more than get the vaccine," Mr Reynolds said.
"If they spent $21 million saying what we have been told for weeks and weeks then that is just a colossal waste of money and a terrible, terrible missed opportunity.
"The second ad, from what I have seen so far, is more promising. At least it is showing people that Covid is bad, that Covid can really be painful, which a lot of Australians deep down don't believe, and it is showing people that young people can get it, not just older people.
"And finally, it is simple and you are going to look at it. It is 10 times better than the first ad. Let's see what (happens), so far we have two totally different ads apparently going to run at the same time."
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