'It made me feel really sick’: Mother describes harassment by anti-vaccine activists

'It made me feel really sick’: Mother describes harassment by anti-vaccine activists
When Jill Promoli posted about her son’s death, anti-vaxxers attacked, telling her she’d caused her son’s death because she gave him a flu shot. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) – Parents who choose to vaccinate their kids say they’ve been subjected to online harassment from anti-vaccine activists – or anti-vaxxers – who aren’t shy about spreading vaccine misinformation.

Jill Promoli, who lives outside Toronto, lost her 2-year-old son Jude McGee to the flu. He’d received a flu shot, but it didn’t work.

When she posted about her son’s death, anti-vaxxers attacked, telling her she’d caused her son’s death because she gave him a flu shot.

Some anti-vaxxers even went so far as to say she’d intentionally killed her son.

“I got a lot of people accusing me of actually murdering Jude and using the flu as an excuse to cover up my crime,” Promoli said. “The first time it made me feel really sick ... the idea that somebody could even suggest that I would do something that would hurt any of [my children].”

Often, these attacks are not random.

Erin Costello, a stay-at-home mom, uses a fake Facebook account to spy on dozens of anti-vaccination groups.

Costello said when a child dies, "They ask the other group members, 'Come on. Let's go hit them with our truth, with our information. Let's go educate them.' Basically, let's go harass them."

Costello then warns the parents being targeted.

But it’s not just parents who are under assault by anti-vaxxers.

Extra security was on hand at a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meeting because anti-vaccine advocates had come to give a piece of their minds.

There’s a reason the CDC was worried. When doctors state the truth – that vaccines save lives – some anti-vaxxers have threatened to kill them.

Anti-vaxxers told Dr. Paul Offit he should be put in front of a firing squad.

Dr. Peter Hotez, another vaccine expert, needs a security escort.

On Facebook, anti-vaxxers called for Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and California state senator, to be shot, and wrote, “I hope they stone you to death.”

Larry Cook, a leader of the anti-vaccine movement, said his Facebook group generates 500,000 comments per month.

“Any discussions about parents who lose their children after those children are vaccinated would be minor in number,” wrote Cook, who added that anti-vaxxers get harassed by pro-vaxxers.

Promoli said she’s launched a campaign in Jude’s name to encourage people to get flu shots, and she won’t let the anti-vaxxers stop her.

“I don’t want anyone to ever lose their child again,” she said.

Copyright 2019 CNN. All rights reserved.