10 Things Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Kids Should Know
May 11, 2017

It’s not uncommon for a parent who has lost a child to a vaccine preventable disease to try to spare other families from the same agonizing heartache. 

In some cases, these children may have suffered with a preventable disease because they were unvaccinated.  This could be the result of parents who did not have access to certain vaccines, parents who willfully refused a particular vaccine, or in the case of Riley Hughes, infants who were too young to be fully vaccinated.

Riley was a healthy baby boy born in Australia on February 13th, 2015.  At three weeks of age he started exhibiting cold-like symptoms with an occasional cough. When he was just 32 days old, Riley passed away in the arms of his parents.  

pertussis112315While in the hospital, Riley was diagnosed with pertussis, also known as whooping cough.  At that time, the U.S., the UK, Belgium and New Zealand, were already advising expectant women to get an adult Tdap vaccine at 28-32 weeks of pregnancy in order to transfer protective antibodies to their unborn babies.  This practice helps protect infants from pertussis at a time when they are most vulnerable to infection and subsequent complications.  It’s also the only way newborns can benefit from some protective antibodies before they are two months of age and begin receiving the first of five doses of DTaP vaccine to become fully vaccinated against pertussis.

Unfortunately, the Australian government hadn’t adopted this practice until shortly after Riley’s death. Since then, Riley’s parents have made it their mission to educate people about the dangers of whooping cough, and promote the need for vaccination so that no other family would have to suffer like they did.

Sadly, there are still some parents who choose not to vaccinate.  In a plea to these parents, Riley’s mom posted the following list of “things to know” on the Light for Riley Facebook page:


Ten things I want parents who don’t vaccinate their kids to know:

1. There are no cures for most of the diseases we vaccinate against.

2. Even if you choose not to vaccinate, please, please, please make yourselves aware of the symptoms of these potentially fatal diseases. Infections like meningococcal can kill within 24 hours, and every minute counts.

12244586_1518881475089295_4527321516860468835_o3. If you’re really worried about vaccine “toxins”, you don’t want to see what the toxins from Bordetella Pertussis (the bacteria responsible for whooping cough) can do. Trust me – I watched my newborn son die from it.

4. If your children contract a disease like measles or whooping cough, they usually have no symptoms in the first day or two – yet they are highly contagious. Keeping them away from others when sick is often too little, too late – the disease has already spread.

5. Your children will grow up, and you will need to be prepared to explain why you chose to leave them unprotected from serious disease.

6. Vaccines are not perfect. Like condoms… there’s a failure rate. There’s also a tiny chance you might have an allergic reaction. But they protect you from a hell of a lot of nasty stuff.

7. If you are worried about where to get good and unbiased information from, speak to someone who has worked in intensive care. They have seen patients with vaccine-preventable diseases. And if someone was in a serious way from a reaction to a vaccine, they would have seen those patients too. I have never met an ICU doctor/nurse who is against vaccination.

8. Be wary of those selling books, memberships, and alternatives to vaccination. They have rea$on$ for trying to convince you to not vaccinate.

9. In the time you have spent reading this, a few more children under the age of 5 have passed away from a vaccine-preventable disease somewhere in the world. These diseases are serious, they are deadly, and they are preventable.

10. It’s not too late to change your mind!

– Riley’s Mum  (❤R.I.P Riley)

Light for Riley is a project of a foundation that Riley’s parents have helped establish called the Immunisation Foundation of Australia

Like Every Child By Two’s Vaccinate Your Family program, the Immunisation Foundation of Australia provides evidence based information to help parents learn more about the dangers of preventable diseases and the benefits of timely vaccination.

When it comes to preventing pertussis among infants, research indicates that maternal vaccination has been quite effective. 

The latest study published in Pediatrics earlier this month demonstrates that maternal Tdap vaccination during pregnancy has effectively reduced the risk of a child contracting pertussis by over 90% in the first 2 months of life and the risk continues to be low throughout the first year of life.

The same is not true in cases where parents received Tdap after pregnancy In these scenarios, cases of infant pertussis did not significantly decrease, thus emphasizing the importance of vaccine timing in passing on critical pertussis protection.


While it is encouraging to know that maternal vaccine recommendations are helping to spare babies from the same fate as Riley, organizations like Every Child By Two and the Immunisation Foundation of Australia will continue to inform parents about the need for adult Tdap vaccination during pregnancy, not after delivery, in order to ensure no child is left unprotected, because sadly, whooping cough outbreaks still occur in the U.S.

Currently, the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices  (ACIP) continues to recommend that pregnant women get an adult Tdap vaccine to help protect their newborn babies from pertussis.  Additionally, close family members and caregivers are also advised to receive a Tdap booster at least two weeks prior to the anticipated arrival of a newborn baby.

For more information about the vaccines recommended during pregnancy, as well as vaccine recommended for infants, children, teens and adults, check out our Vaccinate Your Family website. 

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