General Hospital actors leaving soap over anti-vaccination story

Acting stars reportedly quit soap opera in protest over show’s stance on vaccinations

The cast of General Hospital has been shaken by casting changes, with two people leaving the daytime soap opera.

General Hospital sacked one of its characters last week over a controversial anti-vaccination storyline, sparking public outcry and even sending a medical professional to the US Congress to protest.

Now, thanks to a petition launched to get the show to ditch the storyline, actors Billy Miller and/or Michelle Stafford have left the show. Miller had been playing Jason Morgan, while Stafford had played Nelle Benson.

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They will no longer be seen on camera in real life. Tyler Christopher, who played Sonny Corinthos, joined Miller in being cast in a new drama series later this year.

The change was pushed back until next week, after the production company American Peak decided to cancel the storyline that had attracted complaints from parents.

General Hospital’s decision to move forward with the story angered parents who work with children with serious illnesses. Since 2015 the soap had made Nelle Benson a “monster” who fakes her own stroke to falsely avoid immunizations.

Miller and Stafford had spoken up for actors who do not have children but opposed the storyline in support of GMP, a national organisation of people opposed to mandatory vaccination.

“It’s not about the kids on the show it’s about all the other kids out there who are forced to get vaccines,” Stafford told the New York Daily News. “How would you feel about these diseases coming back?”

The company said it was “more important than ever to act responsibly” with the plotline.

Andrew Pollack, a Massachusetts-based businessman who drives parents to work, launched a petition last Friday calling for ABC to cancel the soap’s “anti-vaccination storyline”. Pollack’s son was struck down with meningitis at just five years old and lost an eye.

Pollack applauded the move to have the storyline come to an end.

Pollack said: “This was not a matter of simply paying lip service to the common sense truth that we are all immune to things like meningitis and measles but that the people paying the salaries are gone and there’s nothing they can do about it …

“They will now have their chance to try to make up for their actions, which may or may not be comforting to me personally.”

The petition now has more than 30,000 signatures.

Miller had told USA Today: “It’s an evolving debate. I don’t think [the storyline] is unfair … The parents I know who have kids with autism, they try to encourage their kids to do things like go to the zoo. They try to get them to go to summer camp, or out in nature. There are many, many alternatives,” he said.

“I think that parents, as their child’s pediatrician said, there are so many options and there are so many other things you can do with your kid besides inoculations.

“But I’m a little frustrated with how government regulation is today, especially in those areas that should be least controversial but have been thrust in the spotlight as being controversial.

“Having created characters that cater to and cater to parents is kind of an easy way to make yourself very popular. I understand where that is coming from. It’s up to the writers to kind of ignore that a little bit and to find a way to make people feel that they’re making a choice that they think is right for their child.”

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