Here is a Youtube video telling the story of one infant who contracted pertussis: Carter’s Story.
Here is what happened when there was an ill-founded scare surrounding the pertussis vaccine in this country: “…immunisation coverage [dropped] to 30% in 1975 resulting in major epidemics in 1977/79 and 1981/83. As a result, there were more than 200,000 extra notifications and 100 deaths in 1970s and 1980s.” (See also this graph.)
You can see from this table that there were outbreaks of pertussis in 1978 and 1982 – in these two years alone, there were 130,000 notifications of pertussis and 26 deaths.
More recently, there has been an outbreak of pertussis in California. As of June 15, California had 910 recorded cases of the highly contagious disease this year, and five babies – all under 3 months of age – had died. [Update, 22nd October 2010: CNN report that a tenth infant has now died. “Nine were younger than 8 weeks old, which means they were too young to have been vaccinated against this highly contagious bacterial disease.”]
Days later, it was reported that seven children across California, all less than 2 months old, had died from the disease and last Wednesday, in a report pointing out that California had seen its highest levels of whooping cough since 1955, the number of cases and deaths this year-to-date were given:
More than 5,270 cases of whooping cough have been reported in California’s growing epidemic, which has killed nine infants this year.
Left Brain Right Brain has a post commenting on the outbreak in California titled “An example of how alternate vaccine schedules endanger children“.
It’s not just pertussis that should concern us. In an outbreak of measles in Duisburg, there were two deaths. Both victims were children.
The two children who developed encephalitis and died were aged 2 months, and 2 years. The infant was too young for vaccination and would have relied upon herd immunity for protection. [PDF]
Those most at risk from a decision to forego vaccines are usually infants and young children. This is (in part) why I recently decided to contact my GP and check up on my vaccination status.
I wanted to make sure I was protected against vaccine-preventable infectious diseases partly in order to avoid passing a serious infection on to anyone else should I be exposed to whooping cough or measles. I’m not just protecting myself by ensuring that my vaccinations are up-to-date, I’m protecting my friends’ children. It would be irresponsible of me to do otherwise.
Edit, 18:13 12/10/2010
This letter from Toni and David McCaffery tells their story:
We write this letter broken hearted and feel like we failed our daughter.
Before 9 March 2009, we were happy and complete following the birth of our third child Dana. Today, we are shattered at the preventable death of our beautiful girl.
Our sweet Dana is the innocent victim of dangerously low levels of awareness and even lower vaccination rates. Instead of her photo winning baby competitions, she is the tragic face of a Whooping Cough (Pertussis) epidemic
Newborns are helpless and it takes just one breath to infect them.