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Kids in New Jersey Schools Can Win Cash Prizes by Shilling for Vaccine Makers


The New Jersey Department of Health’s “Protect Me With 3+” contest encourages kids and teens to create posters and videos — using health department talking points — to promote vaccines. Critics called out the contest for using kids to “propagandize other children.”



New Jersey schoolchildren can enter a contest to win cash prizes by creating posters and videos that promote vaccines.


The “Protect Me With 3+” campaign for “educating New Jersey communities” about the “benefits” of vaccines is sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) and the Partnership for Maternal & Child Health of Northern New Jersey.


The campaign, open to children and teens in grades 5-12, requires students to create a poster or 30-second video to “raise awareness of the importance of vaccination against one of the following vaccine-preventable diseases: Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap), Meningococcal ACWY (MenACWY), Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Flu, or COVID-19,” according to the contest’s guidelines.


“By getting vaccinated, you are protecting yourself and your family and friends,” the contest materials state. “Not vaccinating a child on time can make someone else sick, like a friend, baby, adult, grandparent, or someone unable to be vaccinated.”


Contest participants can win a $50-$175 gift card. Three teachers whose classes submit the most entries will be awarded $75 each.


An accompanying contest by the NJDOH targeting university students asks them to create content promoting vaccines with the phrase “Step Up! Vax Up!” and offers a top prize of $5,000 to the winning entry.


Some medical and legal experts said they had ethical concerns about having children participate in a contest to promote pharmaceutical products.


“This type of insidious manipulation of children for Pharma profit is cruel and inhumane,” said Brian Hooker, Ph.D., P.E., Children’s Health Defense (CHD) senior director of science and research.


“It is typical of state departments of health to lie about the safety profile of vaccines, but NJDOH takes it one step further, where these unsuspecting children will be used as minions in their dangerous campaign,” Hooker said.


New Jersey-based attorney Julio Gomez told The Defender that NJDOH has strayed from its mission — and from science. He said:


“According to its website, the primary goal of the NJDOH is to improve the well-being and quality of life for all New Jerseyans. Its work purports to include health promotion and education, and health data collection and analysis.


“In light of the vast amount of scientific evidence available today about the risks and ineffectiveness of the entire childhood vaccine program, in particular the number of children who have been injured by vaccines and compensated by the government for their proven injuries under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, it appears clear to me from the NJDOH’s poster campaign that NJDOH has completely abandoned its mission.”


‘Recruiting children to propagandize other children’


Ann Rosen, a member of CHD’s New Jersey chapter, told The Defender that NJDOH organizes this poster contest annually. Citing the winning entries from the 2023 contest, she said, “The good intentions, talent and creativity are evident. Critical science and risk-benefit profiles are absent. And this appears to be by design.”


Rosen said the Protect Me With 3+ contest originally promoted three vaccines, but the number has since been “just growing” — resulting in “3+” being added to its name.

She said the contest is misleading and misinforming children.


“The idea of recruiting young children is really concerning, because they’re recruiting children to propagandize other children with these sorts of incentives, and they’re working off the assumption that all these things are good,” Rosen said. “They’re misinforming children about vaccines as they’re encouraging them to encourage other kids to get vaccinated.”


“These are underage children commenting on topics they are unaware about,” said Dominique Venezia, another CHD New Jersey chapter member.


Venezia said:


“It isn’t really in the purview of students to take on such a heavy topic. Having children encourage friends to participate in something that is still very new, for which we don’t know the outcome, I think that’s dangerous. I think that’s harmful to children and irresponsible.”


Vaccination ‘not a game’


The “Protect Me With 3+” contest tells students who are considering submitting an entry that, aside from the possibility of winning gift cards of up to $175, they can “Become a health messenger” among their peers and can also “enhance” their “college application and resume.”


These are “unfair incentives,” Venezia said. “Any time you attach a monetary value to something, you’re going to get somebody to participate in that. It’s definitely a push.”


She added: “This isn’t something that’s happening organically. This is not children deciding ‘health is something we have to look into and we’re going to take this on for that benefit of our community.’”


“Cash incentives are going to push them in a certain direction, and they will do anything for it, especially at such a young age,” Venezia said.


Brianne “Bri” Dressen compared the contest to “the ‘get a donut free’ type of marketing campaign” widely seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.


“Making such an important decision with something being injected into your body should be managed with a bit more care than this,” she said.


Dressen, an advocate for vaccine injury victims who is co-chair of the non-profit React19 activist group, said vaccination “is not a game. It’s an important healthcare decision to make that needs to be thoroughly researched ahead of time.”


Dressen, who was injured by the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and is now suing the Biden administration and federal public health officials, said, “When those kids end up at React19 because of injuries, it’s no longer a cute little game.”


Using students ‘to create marketing ads’ for Big Pharma


The Protect Me With 3+ contest guidelines also instruct students to use only “resources” from its own website as part of the poster or video they create.


For Charlene Delfico, the New Jersey state chair for the FormerFedsGroup Freedom Foundation, a group that advocates on behalf of vaccine-injured and COVID-19 hospital protocol victims, these instructions “are a classic example of indoctrination.”


“The government is composing the phrases that they wish the students to repeat in the ‘posters’ or ‘videos,’” Delfico told The Defender. “De facto, the government is using young students as cheap labor to create marketing ads for the pharmaceutical companies.”


“Moreover, the government is using taxpayers’ dollars to create this propaganda campaign on behalf of Big Pharma,” she added.


Venezia added:


“That is not promoting any critical thinking skills or independent investigation or evaluation of any of these injections. And that’s a problem because they won’t accept your advertisement if you don’t use the ‘proper’ information that they’ve provided. It’s not encouraging free thinking or independent study. It’s exactly what it is: propaganda.”


According to Rosen, the contest instructions, along with the specific vaccines the students are being asked to promote, are “forcing kids to regurgitate” officially sanctioned information about vaccines.


“They’re training children to regurgitate things and believe they are facts when they are not scientifically viable ideas,” she said.


The website for CHD’s New Jersey chapter notes that children participating in the contest will not learn key information about the vaccines in question, such as that the Tdap vaccine “only prevents symptoms and does not prevent infection, colonization and transmission.”


“Since it eliminates symptoms without preventing infection, Tdap can create ‘silent carriers’ who can inadvertently perpetuate the spread of pertussis,” according to CHD New Jersey, citing a 2019 study that found that 82% of childhood pertussis cases identified by Kaiser Permanente California were in children who were fully vaccinated.


Rosen said she attended a recent public meeting of the Westfield Regional Board of Health in New Jersey, where people were told that the only cases of pertussis that had been reported in the state “had been in fully vaccinated people.”


Rosen told The Defender similar things can be said about the other vaccines the contest aims to promote.


“The flu shot is notoriously ineffective … it’s common knowledge now that it doesn’t stop infection or transmission,” she said. “HPV, you’re not spreading HPV at school, in a school setting, and then Tdap creates silent carriers. So, we’re not talking about campaigns of helping other people.”


In October 2023, for instance, a 12-year-old boy in France who received the Gardasil HPV vaccine at his school subsequently fainted and collapsed. He died a few days later.


Yet, according to Rosen, this has not stopped local health officials from promoting the vaccines — and using children in such campaigns.


“I’ve been attending these meetings [and] they are always trying to create some sort of campaign to involve children,” she said. “There’s a lot of context, there’s a lot of incentivizing. They really like to use graphics and means as a way of educating the public.

Bringing kids in is ideal for this kind of propaganda.”


Campaign violates principle of informed consent


Experts also told The Defender the Protect Me With 3+ contest does not inform participants about the risk of vaccine injuries.


“The vaccines to be promoted, especially COVID-19 and HPV, have strong safety concerns and will lead to greater rates of adverse events in the children and adolescents targeted in this campaign,” Hooker said.


“None of that will be addressed by NJDOH. This flies in the face of informed consent and is absolutely shameful. I ask students and parents to avoid participating in this campaign at all costs,” Hooker added.


Gomez agreed:


“The childhood vaccine schedule demands critical scientific review and explanation by our state agency, not propaganda campaigns that recruit children who have no idea how dangerous these vaccines are, and are not capable of exercising informed consent, to cheer for medical products that have not been demonstrated to be safe or effective and have harmed and killed many of their peers.”


Delfico said that there were potential legal implications in NJDOH’s poster contest.


“There are many federal and state laws and entire governmental agencies that are charged with protecting children from such predatory marketing ploys by pharmaceutical companies,” she said. “Raising awareness with regards to vaccines benefits and risks is the job of a trained physician, not government officials.”


“The goal of increasing vaccination rates while disregarding the cost-benefit data is a blatant disregard of the health and safety of the public. Marketing pharmaceutical products directly to patients has been illegal until recent times for the very reason that patients should not be fooled by the pharmaceutical companies who are profiting from these products,” Delfico added.


‘Directly targeting children to bypass their parents’


Local activists also said they were not surprised that the state would organize such a contest.


“If you follow the NJDOH and the workings of the boards of health and a lot of the associated organizations, it’s not really surprising,” Rosen said.


According to Delfico, “The New Jersey Department of Education, in cooperation with NJDOH, used the schools as pharmaceutical COVID-19 vaccination clinics to directly reach the children and pressure them to get the vaccine by applying peer pressure and bullying tactics against those kids who did not want to get the vaccines.”


“With the rapid decline of public confidence in the medical community for misleading information on vaccines, NJDOH is directly targeting children to bypass their parents,” Delfico said. “Children are a vulnerable protected class, due to their inability to provide consent to medical procedures.”


“Using taxpayers’ funded schools as a marketing channel on behalf of pharmaceutical companies is breaking the public trust further in a display of government misconduct,” she added.


Venezia told The Defender that the NJDOH should “cease the contest and put it in the hands of professionals, not underage students and teachers,” while along similar lines, Delfico called upon the NJDOH to “stop this pharmaceutical marketing campaign disguised as a ‘contest.’”


“It is unethical. It is deceptive. It meets all the criteria for fraudulent business practices. Targeting children with pharmaceutical products should not be allowed,” she said.


Dressen suggested the NJDOH instead organize a “coloring contest with a simple sentence: ‘If something goes wrong, you can’t sue the drug company,’” referring to the liability shield vaccine manufacturers are afforded under the law.


Rosen had some advice for parents of New Jersey schoolchildren.


“Before you allow your kids to participate in this contest, consider whether you think children should be providing medical advice to other children,” she said. “Is your child equipped to make that kind of medical recommendation to other children? Because that’s essentially what they’re using our kids to do.”

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