Unvaccinated Boy, 6, Nearly Dies of Tetanus but Parents Still Refuse to Get Him Vaccinated

There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A 6-year-old, unvaccinated boy in Oregon nearly died of tetanus, requiring a 57-day stay in the hospital that led to $811,929 in hospital bills.

The boy, profiled in a case study published by the Centers for Disease Control, had cut his head while playing on his family’s farm. His parents cleaned the wound and stitched it up, but six days later he developed severe symptoms — his jaw was clenching and his neck and back were arched, all signs of opisthotonus, muscle spasms that are indicators of tetanus.

He was airlifted to a pediatric hospital where doctors confirmed that he had tetanus, the state’s first case in over 30 years. The disease has been largely eradicated thanks to vaccines.

When he arrived at the hospital, the boy was awake but could not open his mouth, had trouble breathing and had continued spasms. The doctors gave him an anti-tetanus immunoglobulin to treat the wound and the first round of the DTaP vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

They also put him in a dark room with ear plugs, because noise could increase his spasms, and fully cleaned his wound.

But over the next few days his condition worsened. He developed high blood pressure, a soaring fever and a rapid heart rate, and had to be put on a ventilator. He stayed in the intensive care unit for 47 days, and was released to a rehabilitation center after another ten days in the hospital.

“I honestly never thought I would see this disease in the United States,” Dr. Judith A. Guzman-Cottrill, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Oregon Health & Science University, who treated the boy and was the lead author of the study, told the New York Times. “It was difficult — for many of us — to see him suffer.”

A month after his rehab stay — which lasted for 17 days — the boy was able to engage in his old activities, like running and biking.

Throughout his hospital stay, the boy racked up $811,929 in hospital bills. Guzman-Cottrill told the Washington Post that this could have been avoided with the DTaP vaccine.

“The complex and prolonged care led to the high treatment cost,” she said. “In contrast, the cost of one DTaP dose is somewhere around $24-$30 a dose, and this illness could have been prevented with five doses of DTaP vaccine.”

The small, but vocal minority of people who refuse to vaccinate their children has led to major debates across the U.S. and the world. The World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top threats to global health in 2019, and there have been major measles outbreaks in Washington and Oregon due to vaccine hesitancy. In Oregon, where the boy lives, elementary school kids are required to get their vaccinations before the start of the school year, but parents can opt out by signing a form.

A large study recently confirmed again that there is no connection between vaccines and autism.

After the boy’s lengthy and near-fatal hospital stay, the doctors emphasized to his parents that he should get the next four DTaP doses and his other vaccinations. But “despite extensive review of the risks and benefits of tetanus vaccination” from the doctors, according to the study, the boy’s parents declined to get the next dose or any other vaccines.

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