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10 Things Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Their Kids Should Know

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. Read more…

The Battle Against Whooping Cough Continues

December 13, 2011 50 comments

While you’ll often hear public health departments warning of influenza this time of year,there is also reason to be concerned over another contagious disease.   It’s known as “whooping cough”, or pertussis, and it’s a highly contagious bacterial infection that can result in prolonged coughing spells that often lasting for weeks or even months. While one may think that coughing is just inconvenient, people with pertussis often cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from their lungs and they are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound.  Pertussis can even lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, mental retardation, and even death.

Statistics show that 50 out of every 10,000 people with pertussis will die and 90% of pertussis-associated deaths have been among babies less than one year old.  Since children are not fully immunized against pertussis until they receive all five doses of their DTaP vaccine (recommended at ages 2, 4, 6, 15-18 months and 4-6 years), infants are relatively unprotected and extremely vulnerable.  Since their bodies are unable to effectively clear the thick mucus from their chest if they do contract pertussis, the physical impact of this disease is often too much for them to handle.

While most children get immunized, under-immunization, as well as undiagnosed patients, can both contribute to the spread of pertussis.  For instance, children don’t always complete their immunization series.  Often, those who suffer with pertussis often mistake their illness as a persistent cold and never get properly diagnosed.  They often don’t realize that they could be spreading infection to others through the droplets in the air caused by their coughing and sneezing.  It even common for many teens and adults not to realize that their immunization has waned and that they need a Tdap booster shot in order to extend their protection.  That is why public health workers, doctors and even OB/GYNs, are now encouraging Tdap shots for adults, especially those who are in close contact with infants. Read more…

Vaccinations “Cocoon” Infants Too Young to be Immunized

December 7, 2010 4 comments

By Christine Vara

When our first child was born, my husband and I were intent on protecting her from harm.  While we were probably like most new parents, I’ll admit my husband went to a few extremes.  He would constantly analyze the position of the car seat to ensure her airways would not be restricted. He would tip toe into her room at night to ensure she was breathing.  Once, we drove 14 hours to visit family, only for him to deny everyone the opportunity to hold her.  They all teased him for his constant hovering, but they should have been grateful.  What he really wanted to do was hand out surgical masks.   While he received a great deal of ribbing for his defensive tactics, he was just doing his best to protect her.     

The unfortunate reality is that we can’t raise our children in the proverbial “bubble” – even though that’s what we’d like to do.  But that hasn’t stopped one determined couple from trying, and I can’t say that I blame them. 

Sadly, the Van Tornhout family has suffered what must be the greatest pain imaginable. After five years and four miscarriages, Katie and Craig Van Tornhout, along with their son Cole, were overwhelmed with joy at the arrival of baby Callie into their lives.  Their happiness soon turn to devastation when Callie fell ill with pertussis at just five weeks old, and in a matter of days, quickly lost her battle with this highly contagious disease. 

Today, almost a year after losing Callie, Katie Van Tornhout is preparing to deliver another baby.  While they are certainly thrilled by this new blessing, the family is admittedly quite emotional and cautious as they prepare for the arrival of yet another miracle in their lives.  One way in which they intend to protect this precious baby is to insist that anyone who wishes to visit their newborn be up to date on their pertussis booster.  This includes family, friends and even hospital employees.  The truth is, we can take precautions like washing our hands and covering our coughs, but diseases are often transmitted through droplets in the air and immunization through vaccination has proved to be the best defense against a wide variety of diseases, including flu and pertussis. 

In the case of pertussis, full immunization isn’t typically achieved until a child has received all three doses of DTaP vaccine series which begins at 2 months of age, continues at 4 months and then concludes with the final dose at 6 months.  In the case of seasonal influenza, the vaccine is recommended annually but only for children over the age of six months.  Because of these limitations, children under six months remain most vulnerable to both pertussis and flu in those fragile early months of life.    

In response to the current pertussis outbreaks in states like California, where 10 children have already died just this year, public health officials are desperately trying to educate people regarding the importance of adult pertussis boosters, administered as TdaP shots.  Prior to the birth of a new baby, parents and family members are encouraged to be vaccinated, while pregnant women are being advised to receive their booster shot just after delivery, if they haven’t already been vaccinated before pregnancy. 

In regards to flu protection, everyone over the age of 6 months is encouraged to be vaccinated.  Additionally, pregnant women should know that vaccination during pregnancy offers triple protection.  First, changes to a woman’s immune system during pregnancy can make her more sensitive to the flu and result in serious complications if she is infected.  Secondly, pregnant woman who fall ill with the flu have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.  Another significant consideration in favor of flu vaccine for pregnant women is that a mother’s own immunity can be passed on to their unborn child.  In fact, the Wall Street Journal Health blog, recently reported on a study published by the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine that found that babies born to pregnant women who were vaccinated against the flu were 41% less likely to develop the flu themselves.  This is a considerable benefit of vaccination that pregnant women may not be aware of, but is an easy way to help protect their unborn children.  

To further ensure protection of these young and vulnerable children, whose immune systems are not sufficiently developed to handle the vaccine or the illness, it becomes imperative that family members and others who come in contact with these infants get vaccinated themselves.  By surrounding a child with people who are immunized, it forms a virtual “cocoon” around them, helping to prevent them from falling ill and suffering complications, hospitalizations and the possibility of death.   

In light of the Van Tornhout’s newest arrival, and the fact that it happens to be National Influenza Vaccination Week, we hope that more people will take steps to ensure everyone in their family is up to date on their pertussis booster and vaccinated against seasonal flu.  Remember, these simple steps you take will not only protect your family,  but will also help prevent the spread of disease to others, including those like newborn Baby Van Tornhout’s, and all the other children out there that are too young to be vaccinated.

A Mother’s Story of Love, Loss and Hope

September 10, 2010 4 comments

Shot of Prevention would like to thank Felicia Dube for contributing this article.  We admire her courage in sharing her personal story of loss and pain.  We appreciate her determination to save others from the same fate.  And we honor precious baby Carter by emphasizing the importance of lifelong vaccination against pertussis to help save the lives of other children. 

By Felicia Dube,

There are days I want to hide my head and cry.  Then there are the days I want to scream to the Heavens asking why. Why me?  But most days, I just want to hold my precious red headed baby and kiss his face and smell his head. 

You see those days are long gone.  I am one of “those” mothers;  the mothers that wear the “angel baby” hat.  I lost my precious Carter to pertussis on January 28th, 2010.  He was only 7 weeks old. 

Carter was taken from us way too soon due to pertussis, a vaccine preventable disease that is currently on the rise in the US.  Although infants are vaccinated when they are young with Dtap (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Acellular Pertussis), what many people don’t know is that adults need a booster vaccination called Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Acellular Pertussis).  Parents may not realize that many adults are carrying the disease and may be infecting their own children.  Experts believe that there may be up to one million cases of pertussis in the U.S. every year!  If all adults and adolescents received their Tdap booster to help prevent pertussis, we could protect infants who have yet to receive the vaccines’ protection.

There is a great debate to vaccinate or not vaccinate your children, and realistically everyone has the right to choose.  It is a right given to us because we live in the United States.  But in my opinion, a decision that affects the lives of others shouldn’t be made on an individual basis.  If a parent makes the choice not to vaccinate their children, and then puts them in daycare with other children, they are risking the lives of those children as well.  For instance, many daycares include infants who have yet to receive all their shots.  Also, many mothers tote their infants along to daycare when dropping off older children, which then puts the infants at risk. This isn’t fair. I know in school systems and daycares it is required that children have their shots, but is anyone really checking that? I would bet not. 

It can be debated all day that shots cause autism or shots have side effects, but at the end of the day your child is still alive.  I would take Carter home with autism or anything as long as I was taking him home. Instead, I have an empty nursery full of toys, a swing he loved, a crib he never even slept in, and clothes he never got the chance to wear.  The truth is, I don’t think Carter’s pertussis came from a child, which is the sad part.  I think Carter was probably infected by an adult; an adult that thought they just had a cold and didn’t know they were spreading pertussis.  As his mother, I didn’t do enough to prevent who held him or who gave him a kiss on the head. I didn’t know about the dangers of pertussis and now I want to tell every new mother in the world to protect their babies! 

Now when I want to kiss Carter’s head, I have to kiss a picture.  If I want to remember what Carter smelled like, I have to smell some of his clothes I never washed.  On Sundays we go as a family and visit Carter.   We take him balloons and tell him how much we miss him.   I won’t ever hear Carter’s first words or witness his first steps.  Carter won’t ever experience his first day of school or a high school prom. 

A simple adult booster may have prevented this.  A simple shot in the arm may have allowed us to watch our beautiful baby boy grow up. 

I urge you to get educated.  Ask questions.  Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant, have family members that are pregnant, or if you are even thinking of having a baby.  Don’t become a victim of something that you may have been able to prevent.  Although I believe that God had a plan for Carter before he allowed us to have him on earth for 7 short weeks, it still doesn’t make the days any easier. 

You can find more information at Sounds of Pertussis, Every Child By Two and Vaccinate Your Baby.

Photography compliments of Amy Sapp, Frankly Daisy Photography.