PSA: The “Vaccinations Lead To Heroin Use” Graphic Is A Parody

It has been said that some of the most effective satire is nearly impossible to distinguish from the truth. As such, occasionally a graphic or quote which has been created as a parody is shared on social media, creating confusion, fear and outrage among a wide range of people… particularly those not familiar with the source and their particular brand of humour.

One such example is currently doing the rounds; a graphic which appears to be an anti-vaccination claim, which seems to suggest that childhood vaccination leads to heroin use, due to needles being regarded as something positive.


Parody image by Something Awful forum user Bog Chef, using a photograph sourced from Flickr user e_monk.

I’d like to reassure anybody concerned that this has not been created by an anti-vaccinationist (though, being familiar with the wide range of bizarre claims made by anti-vaccination campaigners, I can understand why it could be read as real). Furthermore, in case I need to clarify this, there is no known causal link between vaccination and intravenous drug use later in life.

This graphic was created as a part of Something Awful’s Photoshop Phriday in 2013, in which SA forum participants tried to create over the top parodies of anti-vaccination posters. After showing some examples of actual anti-vaccination memes, the SA admins issued a challenge: “If they can take anti-vaccination posters to this level of absurdity, imagine what we can do!”

Unfortunately, this one has escaped its context and repeatedly gone viral – on its current round, it has managed to spread far enough to grab the attention of the media, with the Sunshine Coast Daily reporting, “Viral anti-vaccination meme shocks professionals“.

“The image, which depicts a drug addict slumped in a corner with the text “their first injection was a vaccination: protect your children from vaccinations”, has gone viral on social media and has recently found its way to Coast news feeds.”

The version of the image which has been received by the Sunshine Coast Daily has been cropped of the Something Awful watermark and as such, is not identifiable by doing a reverse Google Image Search. Generally though, reverse image searching is an excellent way to check the source of an image – and if there is a watermark present, do check the nature of the website it came from before sharing.

If you see this image on social media, my recommendation is not to share it, but to let others know that it is both factually incorrect and was created as a parody by the Something Awful forum participants.

UPDATE 05/06/2014 11:41am: The Sunshine Coast Daily have updated their article, with information from this post.

UPDATE 05/06/2014 10:30pm: Ten News Brisbane have also reported on the meme, acknowledging that it is a parody image. Video report: Confronting Parody

UPDATE 11/06/2014 5:40pm: I have written a letter to the editor of the Sunshine Coast Daily newspaper regarding their use of the above post in an article.

UPDATE 21/03/2015 11:11am: It’s very much doing the rounds again! Please keep in mind that this image was created as a joke and is currently being shared by certain trollesque Facebook pages in order to provoke outrage. Before sharing it on social media, I ask that you consider whether you really want to give trolls oxygen. While the spike in blog traffic over here is kind of nice, I’d rather see this silly graphic out of circulation.


femvax posttoFAV



  1. I agree. There are enough people who would think this is real rather than a parody for the original graphic (without the word ‘parody’) to be a counterproductive bad idea. Meryl Dorey is probably rubbing her hands with glee.

    1. I have actually seen suggestions from anti-vaccinationists that the graphic was created by SAVN participants to discredit anti-vaxxers. For the record, I am not “Bog Chef”, nor do I think that this was particularly productive for vaccination advocacy (not that this was necessarily the intention behind its creation).

      Humour is subjective – some people have certainly found it (and even the resulting confusion) amusing.

      On the up side, at least the SA forum goons are pro-vaccination!

  2. It’s interesting, though, that this parody has managed to get viral coverage to the extent it ended up in a mainstream paper. It demonstrates what the pro-science camp have said all along about lies travelling around the world several times before the truth can get its shoes on. There will likely be anti-vaxxers out there lapping up the “data” in this graphic, just as they swallow the “data” from places like Naturalnews and whale-to, and waiting for their chance to repeat it elsewhere as scientific fact. They will also claim, at that point, to have done their research.

    Now, on the issue of the media and the apparently complex issue of fact checking, does anyone have any information on this week’s Channel 9 News story about the chap who was allegedly made “quadraplegic” by a whooping cough vaccine? I saw one copy of the item posted on FB but the story had no comment from anyone with a scientific or medical background and appeared to be based entirely on the story as told by the affected man. I’m neither a doctor nor scientist so have no way of verifying or dismissing the case as presented, but was disappointed at the lack of qualified opinion, confirmation or rebuttal in the news item.

    1. Some of my friends from Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters put this together in response to the Channel 9 story about the man who sustained quadriplegia after a DTAP shot – I hope that it is useful to you!

  3. I found the original photo and the photographer. It is not a real drug addict at all.The photographer set the photo up. Read the comments on his photo. I found the original photograph on Flicker. You can read the comments on the photo by other photographers.

    The person who took this photo and has hundreds,probably thousands of his/her original photo’s and goes by the name on Flicker as e_monk as you can see top right of the page, Click on his name to see all his original photo’s and his profile page (link below). He states on his Profile Page on Flicker – “if you use any my creative commons images, please link back to the photo page”

    Click on “some rights reserved” right of the original photo in the grey area under his name, which will take you to “Creative Commons Attribution” — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
    ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

    e_monk Flicker Profile Page

    I hope e_monk will be informfored, unless he has already seen what they have done to his photo and been acknowledged as the photographer, which had absolutely nothing to do with Being Vaccinated or Not and also because it went viral, a written apology for using his photo without his permission, if that be the case. Somethingawful dot com should not have their domain name on the photo, unless the photographer has given his approval,

    Bernadette Landers.

    1. Thank you, Bernadette – this is a very important point.

      I have adjusted the caption below the graphic in my post to provide attribution to e_monk. It probably isn’t much in the grand scheme of what’s happened to their work – it troubles me greatly that people’s images are taken and used in such a manner.

      I noticed that you’ve also left a comment for e_monk to let them know what’s going on – I hope that they read it.

      I really appreciate you thinking of this and taking the time to source the original photograph, alert e_monk and comment here.

      1. Sometimes the small things make a differece Jo. I just had a feeling as they use so many other people’s photo’s. I thought I’d go ‘a hunting’. I guess they just found it on google but didn’t take the time or care to realise it was from someone who took the photo, nothing to do with a ‘drug ad’ let alone that ridiculous statement they typed on it.Merly Dorey, the Aussie part of the anti vaccers is under investigation by the governement, she’s a..well I wont give my personal opinion on here…lol By the way e_monk, I took the time and had a look at some of your other photo’s, not all of them, as there must be nearly a thousand of them. You are an amazing phtotographer. Oh yes after I sent you the first msg Monk, I found the like on the chanel 10 news, well you got one of your pics on telly, but for the wrong reason.. Maybe I should ring chanel 10 and tell them who took the Up to you, I will if you want me to 🙂

  4. As the owner creator of the original image, I can say I am not happy it was used this way. Children are literally dying of preventable diseases because of these people.

    1. “These people” = the anti-vaccers, not the people with a sense of humor (though I do wish they didn’t create the altered image)

      1. It is a very powerful photograph – well done. I’m sorry that it has been hijacked.. both as a joke and then by anti-vaccinationists.

        I just saw your post on G+ – I’d be happy to send you links to anywhere I spot it, if you like. Predominantly, I’ve seen it on Facebook – posted by anti-vaxxers, pro-vaxxers who are stunned by it and social media groups/news outlets who want to provoke discussion. It is possible that Facebook may remove it if reports are submitted. It has also been featured on news media, as I’ve linked above.

        If you’d prefer me to remove it from this post, I would also be happy to do so. I’m hoping that you’ve had a few click-throughs at least – Bernadette was wonderful in tracking down the source image, allowing me to provide attribution. If there’s more I can do for you, please let me know.

    2. You can try and tell them about the dying children e_monk, but they will never ever, ever…hear you, sadly..No one has admitted to using or adjusting the photo, it’s been taken off the original site. They even blamed the pro vaccination people for doing it. If you right click on your photo and click on ‘view on google’, Similar or hopefully the same picture will come up. That’s how I found yours, I found one that hadn’t been written on, Your photo is on pages and pages of blogs… Bern.

      1. Jo, It’s e_monks photo and he has the right to do as he wishes with it Jo. But as I was reading your reply, I thought, this is the only place on the net where the truth of the photo and the owner has been reported. Oh I did post it on the site I original saw it on, a pro vaccine site on FB **(Stop the (Anti) Vaccination Association Network)**.and told them of e_monk and his photo. Apart from that, the stacks of other pages on the internet using it do not know the origins of the photo or photographer who had no idea people were using it for their own purposes and propaganda. Just a thought it’s e_monk’s decision what to do with his photo.

        (Jo check out some of his other photo’s, they are fantastic)

      2. Yup, I’ve been involved with Stop the AVN for a few years… an amazing grassroots campaign! I did an interview a few weeks ago with one of their most active campaigners, Ken McLeod, on The Skeptic Zone Podcast a couple of weeks ago, if you’re interested.

        I’ve shared e_monk’s photostream on Facebook and Twitter… I’ve got a few friends who are interested in bird and big cat photos in particular, who I think will enjoy having a look. 🙂

  5. I replied to your comment days ago Jo..It’s gone…did I press reply? lol.. Can’t remember what I said, but yes I’d love the view the interview you did a few weeks ago Jo.

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