USA: Anti-vaccine billboard in Syracuse featuring former fighter’s dead son sparks criticism

5 Oct, 2018
, Source:
An anti-vaccine billboard recently put up on Interstate 690 in Solvay.
An anti-vaccine billboard recently put up on Interstate 690 in Solvay. (James T. Mulder)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A new billboard on Interstate 690 showing a photo of a former professional fighter’s dead son and a headline that says “Vaccines Can Kill” is spreading dangerous misinformation, according to a pediatric infectious disease specialist.

A California anti-vaccine group put up the electronic billboard this week near exit 5 in Solvay. More than 27,000 motorists heading toward Syracuse pass the sign each day.

The child in the photo is Nicholas Catone, the son of Nick Catone, a retired mixed martial arts fighter from New Jersey, and his wife, Marjorie Madison-Catone, a registered nurse.

The 20-month old toddler died last year, 17 days after receiving a DTaP vaccination that immunizes kids under age 7 from diptheria, tetanus and whooping cough. The Catones have said in interviews the vaccination killed their son, even though an autopsy classified it as a “sudden unexplained death” with no link to vaccine.

Learn The Risk, the group that put up the billboard, says adverse side effects and deaths caused by vaccines are underreported. On its website, the group claims vaccines cause autism, a theory that’s been debunked by numerous scientific studies. It also calls seasonal flu shots “one of the most dangerous vaccines on the market.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu vaccine is safe and recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated every year.

Dr. Jana Shaw of Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital said the billboard preys on parents’ emotions to create doubt and hesitancy about vaccinating their children.

“Not vaccinating is a dangerous and possibly deadly choice,” she said.

Shaw said she’s cared for children who have died from vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough. “I know what suffering those children and parents go through,” she said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the most common side effects of childhood vaccines are mild and they protect children from 16 harmful and potentially fatal diseases.

More than 41,000 adults and children in Europe were infected with measles in the first six months of 2018 and at least 37 died from the vaccine-preventable disease.

A recent study found a rise in non-medical exemptions in the U.S. that allow kids to skip vaccines is creating hotspots across the country, particularly in the West, where the risk of getting diseases like measles are growing.

A measles epidemic in 2014 and 2015 that started in Disneyland in Anaheim, California was caused by low vaccination rates among children.

The CDC recently reported 80,000 people, including 180 children, died in the U.S. during last year’s flu season, making it the worst flu season in 40 years. The large number of deaths was blamed in part on lower flu vaccination rates.

The billboard on I-690 has also gone up in Kansas City, Boston, New Haven, Connecticut; and Brick Township, N.J.

Brandy Vaughn, founder of Learn The Risk, said her group put the sign in Syracuse because it has local supporters here who requested it.

 Contact James T. Mulder anytime: Email | Twitter | 315-470-2245

This entry was posted on Friday, October 5th, 2018 at 10:45 am and is filed under Latest News.

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