As the anti-vaxxer movement continues despite outbreaks of once eradicated diseases in communities, one mother is pleading with parents to get their children vaccinated after her daughter’s life was put at risk from exposure to chicken pox.
In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, registered nurse Camille Echols documented her daughter’s trip to the emergency department after her daughter Ashley — whose immune system is compromised from having a kidney transplant at the age of two — came into contact with another child who had chicken pox.
While Echols says she’s stayed quiet on the anti-vaxxer movement over the years, she felt she had to speak up after hearing many anti-vaxxers ask questions like, “Why would my unvaccinated kids be a threat to your vaccinated kids if you’re so sure they work?”
“There are people who cannot have live vaccines, like my daughter, who had a kidney transplant when she was 2-years-old,” the Atlanta-based mom said. “She got one varicella vaccine but couldn’t get the second because she was immunosuppressed and instead of developing immunity, she would have contracted the virus.”
As a result of the exposure, Echols was told to bring Ashley to the emergency department by her nephrologist. While there, she received blood work and injections of immunoglobulin.
“The incubation period of chicken pox is 7-12 days,” Echols said. “So even with all we are doing, she could still become sick in the next 3 weeks. And that would mean an automatic admission to the hospitals for IV antiviral meds. She could become very, very sick from this.”
She added, “And the people choosing to skip vaccinations put children like my daughter at risk. She has been through so much already. And this was avoidable.”
Since her initial post last week, Echols provided an update on the type of feedback she’s been getting from others online — and not all of it has been positive.
“As for those telling me to ‘educate myself,’ I am a pediatric RN with over 10 years’ experience in transplant and chronic illness populations,” she wrote. “To those saying ‘It’s just chicken pox, she won’t die,’ please educate yourselves on transplant recipients. There are millions of people waiting for life-saving organs. With those numbers, the odds are good that someone in your life has been affected by organ failure.”
A third update provided by Echols Wednesday says that her daughter Ashley is doing well and has no signs of the illness.
When parents choose not to immunize their children, Dr. Joan Robinson, chair of the Canadian Pediatrics Society’s Infectious Diseases and Immunization committee, says they are putting other kids — especially children with compromised immune systems — at risk.
When they contract an infectious disease like chicken pox or measles, for example, their reaction will be far more severe than if a healthy child were to contract the same infectious disease, Robinson explains.
“These children tend to have a way more severe [experience] with the disease,” Robinson says. “With chicken pox, fortunately there is an anti-viral [medication] so the moment that child breaks out in chicken pox, they’ll be admitted to the hospital and given an IV of the medication and generally they will do fine. However, they can end up with severe consequences if the diagnosis is not recognized early on.”
But when it comes to measles, Robinson says that’s where things can get dangerous.
“We still have no treatment for measles,” she says. “So there’s actually far more concern that a child can die from measles.”
Besides staying away from infected individuals, children with compromised immune systems actually have no preventative way of protecting themselves from contracting infectious diseases. While healthy children can be vaccinated, immunosuppressed children are unable to receive any vaccination that contain a live virus, Robinson explains.
“Now the virus has been what we call attenuated, which means it’s been changed into a much weaker form of the virus,” Robinsons says. “So anyone with a normal immune system, if they’re given that vaccine, there’s no way they would ever get — for example — full-blown measles or chicken pox. They might get a bit of a rash but they will not get very sick and probably not even be contagious. But someone who is immunosuppressed, if you gave them the vaccine, the concern is they might get full-blown measles or chicken pox from the vaccine and can even die from it.”
So bottom line, says Robinson, is that when parents vaccinate their kids, they’re not only protecting their own child, but others as well, especially those who are vulnerable and unable to protect themselves.