When you look at disease rates in countries where vaccination rates are low and compare them to disease rates in similar countries where vaccination rates are high, it is clear that many people needlessly suffer and even die because they are not vaccinated (See our article entitled "Small Decision, Large Impact: Why Not Vaccinating Your Child Is Dangerous"
). From a medical point of view, such data clearly show that the decision not to vaccinate can lead to terrible tragedy.
However, such raw statistics may not drive home the personal tragedy that results from not being vaccinated. As a result, I want to discuss the personal stories of several people who learned (the hard way) the dangers of not being vaccinated. I pray that their stories will help people realize the risk that they face if they choose not to vaccinate.
Mathilda (last named withheld by request)
I recently received the following from a homeschooling mother. It shows what happens when people believe the lies of the anti-vaccination movement:
"Thank you for your vaccine stance and research! I am a mother who had
heard some "horror stories" and was wary of vaccines. As a result, my 3
year-old daughter (now 7) went deaf in one ear due to complications of
chickenpox. I have since immunized my younger son (& dear daughter has
been immunized against all other known diseases for which vaccines were
The mother (Tammy) hopes that her experience will keep others from believing those same lies.
Christopher Aaron Chinnes
Christopher Aaron Chinnes died of complications due to chickenpox at age 12. He would most likely be alive today if he had been vaccinated against chickenpox. His mother is on a crusade to get every child vaccinated so that no one else has to experience her grief. Read her heart-wrenching story on her website.
You can also view a news clip with his mother urging everyone to be vaccinated against chicken pox.
Joseph Patrick Kepferle
Joseph Patrick Kepferle contracted meningococcal meningitis while in college. Had he gotten the vaccine, as was recommended by the college, he would most likely be alive and well today. His parents are on the board of the National Meningitis Association, which urges all students to be vaccinated against this deadly disease. Read their own words about their tragedy.
Evan Bozof was a healthy, 20-year old college student until he contracted meningococcal meningitis at college. He died within a month of contracting the disease. There is a vaccine available, and it costs about $60. The boy's mother, Lynn Bozof, said, "I am positive if I had known about the vaccine that helps prevent meningococcal meningitis, my son Evan would have been immunized and he would be alive today." (http://www.sabin.org/news_aug6.htm). Read more about Evan and the dangers of meningitis at college.
John Atchison went from being perfectly healthy to dying from chicken pox in 15 hours. His heartbroken mother says, "I wanted people to know there is a vaccine available for them, for their children so that, you know, it doesn't have to happen to them. You know, if we only knew then what we know now, our son might be alive today." Read about John's terrible story here
,or you can hear the heartbroken mother tell the story herself.
Ryan Milley had graduated from high school and was getting ready for college when he was killed by Meningococcal Meningitis. His mother, Frankie, says, "Within 48 hours of his death I heard about MENOMUNE, a vaccine that could have saved Ryan's life. For years our military have been vaccinated against this disease. Yet our children have been left to be mutilated or killed by this disease." She is the founder of Meningitis angels, an organization that tries to educate people so that they do not have to live through her tragedy. Read her story here.
Dr. Dean Blumberg tells the heart-wrenching story of a family that he treated. The family did not vaccinate, and the elder daughter of the family was infected with whooping cough. Although she was able to get over the sickness, she unfortunately gave it to her younger sister, Amanda, who was only two months old. The poor baby coughed so much that she could not get enough oxygen to her brain, and she died. The baby was too young for a vaccination, but had her sister been vaccinated, she would most likely not have gotten the disease and thus not have passed it on to her poor baby sister. Think of the emotional devastation of the family: a lost baby that was infected by her own sister. All of that heartache could have been prevented by a simple vaccination! 1
Nine innocent children in Philadelphia
Dr. Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, experienced the 1991 measles epidemic in Philadelphia first-hand. During that epidemic, 1,600 children contracted measles and nine of them died. As Offit says, "At the heart of the outbreak in the city was a Baptist church whose members chose not to vaccinate." Of the nine innocent children who died, seven were from that church. The other two who died were babies who had yet to get their MMR vaccination. Had the church not been anti-vaccination, these nine precious ones would still be alive today. 2
A previously healthy 11-year old girl died of complications from varicella infection on May 24, 20023
. On May 23, 2002, she came to the emergency room with a history of fever, tachypnea, and chicken pox infection that had lasted up to 12 days. The Emergency Room physician recognized the patient was in shock and she was immediately transported to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. She was urgently intubated and CPR was initiated. The child died early the next morning. She had not been vaccinated. If she had been vaccinated, she would most likely be alive and well today.
In 1990, Anne Marie Worthy refused the Haemophilus influenzae Type B (Hib) vaccine for her daughter Amanda. Amanda came down with Hib and as a result had epiglottitis, a severe swelling of tissue in the throat that is caused by Hib bacteria. She wound up spending three weeks in intensive care, but she pulled through. Today, she is deaf in one ear and has a learning disability that requires daily medication to stimulate brain cells. Her mother is now a strong advocate of vaccination. Read about Amanda's tragic story.
John Kach was never vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis because the shots were too expensive. In college at age 19, he was infected and went into a coma. He survived, but only after amputation. Read about his ordeal and how he is coping now.
Just one month before he was scheduled for his MMR vaccine, 11-month old Aaron came home from daycare with red, watery eyes, a cough, and a mild fever. Eventually, he was diagnosed with measles, but not before he had also infected his mother. Although his mother completely recovered, Aaron never did. He is free of measles, but he has a chronic respiratory illness that is a result of the measles infection. He will have to live with that for the rest of his life. Most likely, he caught measles from a child in daycare who was not vaccinated, as several children from that daycare came down with measles. As Becki says, "One person who wasn't immunized made several babies sick with the disease, and three of them were hospitalized. We have an obligation to consider not only our own children, bit all the children they come into contact with."4
Suzzane Walther was concerned about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, so she decided to do more research on vaccinations before giving them to her child. As she was researching, her child, Mary Catherine, contracted the vaccine-preventable Hib virus. Her child survived, but not without suffering first. She is now furious with herself for believing the lies of the anti-vaccination movement. Read her story at The Tennessean's website.
If you would like to read more stories that bring the dangers of not being vaccinated down to a personal level, visit the The Immunization Action Coalition's website.
They currently have fifty "stories of people who suffered or died from vaccine-preventable diseases."
1. Senate Health and Human Services Committee Hearing, "Childhood Immunization Mandates: Politics vs. Public Health," 1-23-2002, State Capitol of California Return to Text
2. Anita Manning, "To vaccinate or not to vaccinate: Parents worry about safety - which worries health officials," USA Today
, July 17, 2000. Return to Text
3. Wayne Staggs and Donna Allen, "Varicella Death Reported in Indiana," Indiana Epidemiology Newsletter
, August 2002. Return to Text
4. Humiston, Sharon G. and Good, Cynthia Vacccinating Your Child: Questions and Answers for the Concerned Parent
Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA 2000, pp. 113-4 Return to Text
Dr. Wile is not a medical doctor. He is a nuclear chemist. As a result, he does not dispense medical advice. He simply educates the public about scientific issues. Please consult a board-certified medical doctor before making any medical decisions for yourself or your family. Return to Text