Anti-vaxx billboards are going up all over the US – here’s why it’s problematic
Many people are of the opinion that not only is it unnecessary to vaccinate their children, but that it's dangerous too. And we're afraid these billboards popping up all over the U.S. will mobilise and expand the anti-vaxx movement, putting millions of lives at risk.
UFC fighter, Nick Catone, and his wife, Marjorie, lost their son, Nicholas, late last year. Although doctors officially ruled that Nicholas died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), his family believed it had much to do with the DTaP vaccine he’d gotten 3 weeks prior to his death. They've since teamed up with Learn The Risk – an anti-vaccination organisation. (Twitter)

“No parent should have to bury a child… no mother should have to bury a son. Mothers are not meant to bury sons. It is not in the natural order of things,” writes Stephen Adly Guirgis, describing the sheer horror and heartbreak of losing a child. The pain is unimaginable.

So our hearts go out to UFC fighter Nick Catone and his wife, Marjorie, who lost their son, Nicholas, late last year at just 20 months old. Although doctors officially ruled that Nicholas died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), his family believed it had much to do with the DTaP vaccine he’d gotten 3 weeks prior to his death.

We completely understand why Nicholas’s parents would desperately be looking for answers, especially considering that SIDS, by definition, is the “unexplained” death of a seemingly healthy baby up to 12 months. But, to quote Popsugar Moms, “Although Nicholas’s death is certainly a tragedy, using it to generalise vaccines as dangerous – particularly in a campaign with little information besides a quote – is extremely problematic.”

The campaign they’re talking about is that of the anti-vaccination group, Learn The Risk, who recently rolled out 30 billboards across the US, according to The Herald Dispatch. The billboards display an image of Nicholas accompanied by a quote from his mother saying, “As a nurse, I was never taught vaccines can kill until my son was a victim.”

This sends a very strong and frightening message to parents that vaccinations can be fatal, which is extremely problematic because not only have health professionals debunked this myth, they’ve also proven the inverse to be true. 

Where do you stand on the vaccination debate? Email your thoughts to Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

Why vaccinate?

Vaccinations saves lives. Millions of lives.

We've written before, it's not only about protecting your own child, but so many others as well, especially the most vulnerable in society such as babies who are still too young to be vaccinated. So with herd immunity, if enough children in a community are immunised against a disease, then that infection will no longer be able to travel through that community. Again, think of the millions of lives we'd save.

So vaccinating your child is a personal decision reserved for you and only you, but healthcare professionals will always encourage you to go ahead with the vaccination schedules for their evident prevention of previously widespread disease and death.

The DTaP vaccine, for one, protects against diphtheria (a severe respiratory infection), tetanus (lockjaw) and pertussis (whooping cough), all of which can be torturous and fatal. 

With diphtheria, the infected membrane in the throat swells up and can cause suffocation, while the toxin may cause damage to the heart and brain. Tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani bacteria that enter the body through an open wound or a newborn’s umbilical cord, resulting in fatal muscular spasms. Pertussis is highly contagious and spread through a whooping cough – most fatalities occur in infancy.

The South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre (SAIVC) reports that cases of diphtheria are now very rare, and states that according to The World Health Organization (WHO), “South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have potentially eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus.”

So if doctors fully support and encourage vaccinations, and the results of immunisation are clear to see, why is there still skepticism around vaccinating our children?

Debunking common myths around vaccinations

WHO has debunked numerous myths associated with vaccinations, namely that vaccinations have adverse and harmful side effects,  there’s a perceived, false link between vaccinations and autism, and that the DTP/DTaP vaccine, in particular, is linked to SIDS. Here we explain the myths and facts.

1. Vaccinations and side effects

Vaccinations are actually very safe, according to WHO. In most cases your little one will have a “sore arm” and, worst case scenario, a “mild fever”, after a vaccine. In fact, they state that adverse side effects is so rare that it affects “one per thousands to one per millions of doses”.

On the rare occasion that vaccinations are suspected to be the cause of illness and, in some instances, death, after careful investigation the conclusion is usually found to be a programmatic error (a fault in the storage, handling and administration of the vaccine that may compromise it) rather than the production and make-up of the vaccination itself. 

But even these errors are rare and the risk of adverse side-effects from these errors are really minuscule.

2. Vaccinations and autism

Some ill-informed celebrities, including Jenny McCarthy, have openly condemned vaccinations, specifically for the belief that it can cause autism. The conversation about the link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine was sparked by a 1998 study that has since been discredited for being “flawed and fraudulent”, according to WHO. No other study has ever been able to confirm such a link, and the WHO confirms, “There is no evidence of a link between MMR vaccine and autism or autistic disorders”.

3. Vaccinations and SIDS

Although the Catone family believes Nicholas’s death was a result of a DTaP vaccination (we assume this would have been the fourth application at around 18 months), the WHO explains there is no link between SIDS and vaccinations.

“This belief came about because a moderate proportion of children who die of SIDS have recently been vaccinated with DTP; on the surface, this seems to point toward a causal connection. This logic is faulty however; you might as well say that eating bread causes car crashes, since most drivers who crash their cars could probably be shown to have eaten bread within the past 24 hours.”

Referencing studies that tested the link between the two, they further explain,

"In several studies, children who had recently received a DTP shot were less likely to get SIDS. The Institute of Medicine reported that 'all controlled studies that have compared immunized versus non-immunized children have found either no association... or a decreased risk... of SIDS among immunized children'."

WHO therefore reiterates that in Nicholas’s case, as tragic and heartbreaking as it undoubtedly is, his death cannot be linked to the DTaP vaccine he received before he passed.

So that being said, yes, there is a very small chance that a vaccination could very well have an adverse effect on your child if compromised by a programmatic error, however, it’s so rare that statistically, there isn’t enough data to back the anti-vaxx movement at all.

But there are tons of research and reasons why we should. One Reddit user said it simply: by vaccinating you're making the world a safer place for everyone: 

Shout out to all the vax parents from r/Parenting

“Looking at risk alone is not enough however – you must always look at both risks and benefits," concludes the WHO. "Even one serious adverse effect in a million doses of vaccine cannot be justified if there is no benefit from the vaccination. If there were no vaccines, there would be many more cases of disease, and along with them, more serious side effects and more deaths.”

Where do you stand on the vaccination debate? Email your thoughts to Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

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