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UNPROTECTED PEOPLE: Stories of
people who have suffered or died from vaccine-preventable diseases
A CLOSE CALL WITH WHOOPING COUGH
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The following article is reprinted below from the
Winter 1999 issue of the "Immunize Georgia's Little Guys" newsletter of
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. It is reprinted here with
NICK: A CLOSE CALL WITH WHOOPING COUGH
The Morrises of Columbus can put a face on the numbers. In the early 1990s, their son Nickolas almost died from
one of the 3,000 cases of pertussis that still occur each year in the United States.
Nick's father, Thomas T. Morris, says parents would never hesitate to immunize their children if they
understood what whooping cough puts a child through.
"If you were able to see the horrible, debilitating condition the disease brings
about, it greatly outweighs the risk of a reaction to the inoculation itself,"
Nick received his first pertussis vaccination. But his parents responded to
a national media blitz about
adverse effects of the vaccine and chose not to complete the series. Nick had already been prone to lung problems
and seizures, and they didn't want to take the risk.
"My wife and I, thinking we were making an informed, educated decision, chose not to get the second dose,"
Morris said. "We wimped out."
A TEXTBOOK CASE
When he was 4, Nick developed a cough, which gradually worsened. As his condition progressed, an ambulance took
him from a Columbus hospital to Scottish Rite Children's Medical Center in Atlanta.
His parents feared their child would die. His coughing spells were frequently
violent, causing him to vomit and turn blue, and he suffered additional complications.
In hindsight, Morris says he thinks the media did a disservice by frightening
parents about the vaccine without noting the risks of pertussis.
"It was everywhere, a big national controversy," he said. "The press really ran
with it without knowing what they reported would bring about."
Both Nick and his older sister are now fully immunized.
For more information on pertussis and other vaccine-preventable diseases, visit the following CDC
websites: "10 Things You Need to Know About Immunizations" at http://www.cdc.gov/nip/publications/fs/gen/shouldknow.htm
"Vaccine-Preventable Childhood Disease" at http://www.cdc.gov/nip/diseases/child-vpd.htm
Editor's note: To read "Unprotected People" stories that were previously published in IAC EXPRESS visit:
The Immunization Action Coalition is collecting stories of people who have suffered or died from
Please let us know if you have personal stories, or if you know of stories that
have appeared in the media, of the suffering that occurred because someone wasn't
immunized. We also request case reports to help us illustrate the morbidity and mortality caused by
If you have stories and/or case reports that can help save lives, e-mail them to
us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax them to (651) 647-9131.