The billboards feature phrases like "Vaccines can kill" and "There is no such thing as a safe vaccine," with many of them showing the face of a New Jersey toddler who died in May 2017 after receiving a vaccination, according to his parents.
— Caroline Sweeney (@CarolineKCTV5) September 25, 2018
The child in the photo, Nicholas Catone, was the son of Nick Catone, a retired Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter from New Jersey, and Marjorie Madison-Catone, a registered nurse. The 20-month old child died last year, fewer than 20 days after receiving a DTP vaccination. The DTP shot is intended to protect children under the age of seven from diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (also known as whooping cough), all conditions that can be deadly.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diphtheria can cause breathing problems, paralysis and heart failure, while tetanus can cause painful tightening of muscles that results in "locking" of the jaw. Whooping cough causes intense coughing spells that can eventually lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage or even death.
In an August interview with News 12 New Jersey, Nicholas' parents claimed that the DTP vaccination killed their son, even though an autopsy revealed that Nicholas' death was caused by sudden infant death syndrome, which is the sudden, unexplained death of a child less than one year old. The autopsy found no link between the vaccine and Nicholas' death.
More than 30 billboards featuring Nicholas have been put up in multiple US cities by Learn The Risk, a US-based nonprofit organization that says its goal is to warn people about the harmful effects of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, the Post Standard reported earlier this month. The billboards read, "As a nurse, I was never taught vaccines can kill until my son was a victim."
Brandy Vaughan, Learn The Risk's executive director, recently told the Herald-Dispatch that parents are never warned about the potentially dangerous side effects of vaccines.
"It's important to me that parents have the right information to make an informed choice about vaccines. It's been my mission to tell what the pharmaceutical companies are hiding," she said.
"I believe parents should be given the full information about all pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines so they can make educated choices for their families. When a pharmaceutical drug is prescribed, a pharmacist has to go over the possible side effects and reactions, by law. With vaccines, parents are only told vaccines are safe and effective, while the side effect and adverse reaction information is withheld. How can parents make educated choices if they're not given all the information?" she told Sputnik via email Monday.
Other billboards put up by the organization across the US read, "Do you know what's in a vaccine?" and "Vaccines are NOT required for school! You can say NO!"
— ᴅᴇᴄᴏᴅᴇᴅ ʀᴇᴀʟɪᴛʏ (@DecodedReality) October 2, 2018
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccines are very safe, "despite implications to the contrary in many anti-vaccine publications." More serious side effects are so rare (about one per thousands to one per millions of doses) that the risks cannot be accurately assessed.
"As for vaccines causing death, again, so few deaths can plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically. Each death reported to ministries of health is generally thoroughly examined to assess whether it is really related to administration of vaccine, and if so, what exactly is the cause. When, after careful investigation, an event is felt to be a genuine vaccine-related event, it is most frequently found to be a programmatic error, not related to vaccine manufacture," the WHO statement says.
One myth, the WHO adds, is that the DTP vaccination causes sudden infant death syndrome, because a moderate percentage of children who died from sudden infant death syndrome were also found to have been recently vaccinated with DTP.
"On the surface, this seems to point toward a causal connection," the WHO writes on its website. "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."
Learn the Risk did not immediately respond to Sputnik's request for comment.