BIG NEWS: FIVE BILLBOARDS GO UP HONORING NICHOLAS CATONE— Learn The Risk (@learntherisk) September 25, 2018
Nothing will ever bring Nicholas back, but we can make sure he didn't die in vain. Nicholas will save lives. He's a true hero.https://t.co/o57tIUDpoH #LearnTheRisk #FlyHighNicholas #vaccineVICTIM #SIDs pic.twitter.com/LNXzVEEBuD
A slew of anti-vaxx billboards claiming that immunizations can "kill" children are popping up around the US, and the health community has a lot of say about the topic. According to the Herald Dispatch, Learn the Risk — an anti-vaccination group that aims to "educate and empower people to say no to toxic pharma drugs and vaccines" — plans to use the billboards in a nationwide campaign.
The first billboard was seen on the side of a highway in West Virginia and pays tribute to UFC fighter Nick Catone's toddler, Nicholas, who passed away in 2017. The quote, "As a nurse, I was never taught vaccines can kill until my son was a victim," is in reference to Nicholas's mom, who works as a registered nurse.
Although doctors officially ruled that Nicholas died from SIDS, his dad blamed the DTaP vaccine his son received three weeks prior for his son's death.
Since his son passed away, Nick has partnered with Learn The Risk to publicize more anti-vaxx rhetoric. The Herald Dispatch reports that so far, 30 billboards linking Nicholas's death to vaccines have been put up in New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, West Virginia, and other states so far this year.
Although Nicholas's death is certainly a tragedy, using it to generalize vaccines as dangerous – particularly in a campaign with little information besides a quote – is extremely problematic.
Vaccine-related injuries and deaths are exceedingly rare. According to the CDC, the DTaP vaccines are "very safe and effective at preventing diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis." As for potential dangers? "Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. The most common side effects are usually mild and go away on their own."
Experts at the World Health Organization were also quick to remind parents that there's absolutely no connection between the DTaP immunization and SIDS:
One myth that won't seem to go away is that DTaP vaccine causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This belief came about because a moderate proportion of children who die of SIDS have recently been vaccinated with DTaP; 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.
The organization also pointed to scientific research to prove its point.
"In fact, in several of the studies, children who had recently received a DTaP shot were less likely to get SIDS," says the WHO website. "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' and concluded that 'the evidence does not indicate a causal relation between [DTaP] vaccine and SIDS.'"
The bottom line? Consult your pediatrician before making any major discussions about changing your children's vaccination schedule.