Teen who contracted measles at Florida mall showed up with this anti-vaccination poster

Written by CNN Staff

There’s no shortage of places to find opinions on vaccinations in popular culture: Movie studios, comedy sketches, comic books, even the Scrubs television series and Good Will Hunting . And even more recently, there’s a documentary that examines the dangers of the anti-vaccination movement.

The film, titled “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” was directed by Andrew Wakefield , an associate professor of microbiology at the University of London who played a key role in the medical community’s attempts to debunk an anti-vaccination theory.

Wakefield published a paper in 1998 about a small number of children who developed neurological disorders after receiving the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. His work was not peer-reviewed and was based on small samples of children’s medical records, and the findings were later debunked. Wakefield received generous funding from anti-vaccination advocacy groups.

‘Who is he going to bother? My child?’

The film is in its second week of release, but it’s received little attention thus far — other than the amount of vitriol it’s received from many in the anti-vaccination community, who refer to it as a “vax-u-logue” and “Pedobotusap” — that in its first four days earned less than $1,500 at the box office.

None of that changed on Tuesday, January 1, when a mass of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and members of the anti-vaccination movement showed up at the Toys R Us store at the Aventura Mall in Florida.

The angry mob attempted to convince parents of children who were not vaccinated to keep them home from school and prevent them from attending class. The store employees refused to remove the anti-vaccination messages, and the anti-vaccination group’s posters were eventually confiscated. They were arrested after refusing to leave the store.

The poster, the reality

No one from the anti-vaccination group answered CNN’s requests for comment, but the filmmaker behind the documentary said in a press release that the group “engaged in actions and intimidations that go to the heart of free speech.”

The poster shows the anti-vaccination group wearing mocking signs about the dangers of MMR vaccines and specifically refers to children who do not get the vaccine as “poofters.” But that’s not the full extent of the group’s antics.

The larger picture

Why is this story so alarming? Well, no one seems to know quite how many children measles-mumps-rubella has left infected in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received nearly 5,000 cases last year — the highest number since 2003. But the CDC said the real number is likely higher, as 7% of all unvaccinated children who contracted measles in 2017 remained undiagnosed.

Here’s what we do know: of the 1,600 cases of measles as of December 31, the CDC confirmed one death and over 20 cases of pneumonia. However, there are increasing signs that those numbers are on the rise.

The best thing you can do right now is to call a child’s doctor if you’re not vaccinated, and tell them you have questions about the preventative services available.

“As the old saying goes, ‘Who is he going to bother?’ My child?” Dr. Jerry Johnson, a child neurologist in Seattle, told CNN in an interview. “I’m going to give him what he needs to make him healthy.”

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