The parents of a 13 month old child who spent three days in the ICU in University Hospital Galway admitted that they had been influenced by anti-vaccination material they read online.
The boys parents were apparently concerned by anti-vax materials online linking the MMR vaccine to autism and did not get him his childhood vaccinations as a result.
Writing in the Health Protection Surveillance Centre’s Epi Insight Report, Dr Peter Tormey and Dr Edina Moylett said the boy was admitted to the Emergency Department at UHG in “significant respiratory distress”.
On arrival it was noted that the child was very pale on arrived at the ED, with an oxygen saturation of 78% and “obvious central cyanosis”.
The doctors added there was “clinical evidence of significant respiratory distress with bilateral crepitations audible without notable wheeze.”
“Of note, the child had not received his childhood vaccinations due to parental concerns regarding social media reports of a potential link between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorder.”
Blood tests showed the presence of Haemophilus influenzae bacteria which can serious infections in humans, particularly children.
Infections from strains of this bacteria have been drastically reduced since the introduction of the Hib vaccine in 1992, now routinely given to children.
The boy in question was infected with a non typable H. influenzae strain, and ultimately required a three day stay in the ICU and a ten day course of intravenous antibiotics.
“His mother was fully vaccinated and had received the pertussis booster vaccine during pregnancy.”
“Both parents were well informed regarding vaccine-preventable diseases and were aware of the various diseases this child was more susceptible to.”
The doctors at UHG took a chest radiograph which showed “significant bilateral consolidation” and inserted a nasal tube in the emergency department.
“Empiric IV ceftriaxone, oral azithromycin and ostelamavir were commenced. Urgent anaesthetic review was arranged”.
“This case highlights the potential for a vaccine preventable disease to cause acute, life-threatening illness in an unvaccinated child,” the report said
“The fact that this child was infected with a non typable H. influenzae strain is likely owing to ‘herd’ immunity attributable to the success of the Hib vaccine.”
Thankfully, since this incident the two parents have been “keen to pursue” a catch up regime of vaccines.
They also want to share their experience to highlight the importance of vaccination and “were hopeful that this experience may help to provide a more balanced argument on social media”.
Dr Tormey and Dr Moylett noted that this case shows the extremely negative impact that anti-vax social media content can have on vaccination uptake rates.