When Jessie Frenkel’s start-up debuted a new t-shirt line featuring the slogan “Vaccines cause adults,” she didn’t expect controversy.
Then vaccination critics discovered the shirts.
“What a disgusting mockery of people who have been injured by vaccines. You will NEVER see my business!” posted one person on CureGear’s Facebook page. A post promoting the pro-vaccination shirts gathered 7,500 comments, including “Vaccines also cause perfectly healthy babies to die and never become adults” and “This is the dumbest shirt ever.”
Critics also posted videos and studies they say show the dangers of childhood vaccinations.
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Others posted to defend the shirts – and vaccinations. “For every anti vaxxer who comments nonsense here, I'm buying another shirt lmao,” posted one fan. “ I chuckled when I saw this, but then I read the comments and decided to buy one. Just to spite you guys,” posted another.
And Chelsea Clinton posted on Twitter that she planned to order one.
The startup CureGear, based in Fort Collins, Colo., was created by scientists to promote awareness of science and disease. It began by marketing leggings printed with images from the lab.
Frenkel, who is working toward her Ph.D in immunology at Colorado State University, came across the “Vaccines cause adults” quote on the web one day and thought it would make a great t-shirt.
“As an aspiring immunologist, vaccines are at the heart of what I study,” Frenkel said. “Since there is controversy around this issue, I thought this would be a great way for me to show my support and start conversations with people to share what I know about vaccines.”
But she didn’t expect this backlash.
“We know that there is controversy over vaccination but we didn’t expect our post to get much attention since our group of followers are pro-science,” Frenkel said. “It really just took one anti-vaxxer to see the post for it to gain so much attention.”
The company donates $5 from each shirt sale to the Gates Foundation to help vaccinate children against polio.