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Issue Number 142            February 29, 2000

UNPROTECTED PEOPLE: Stories of people who have suffered or died from vaccine-preventable diseases

Story #23:


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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 permission.



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," Morris said.

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."

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 and
"Vaccine-Preventable Childhood Disease" at

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 vaccine-preventable diseases.

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 vaccine-preventable diseases.

If you have stories and/or case reports that can help save lives, e-mail them to us at or fax them to (651) 647-9131.

About IZ Express

IZ Express is supported in part by Grant No. 1NH23IP922654 from CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Its contents are solely the responsibility of and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.

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ISSN 2771-8085

Editorial Information

  • Editor-in-Chief
    Kelly L. Moore, MD, MPH
  • Managing Editor
    John D. Grabenstein, RPh, PhD
  • Associate Editor
    Sharon G. Humiston, MD, MPH
  • Writer/Publication Coordinator
    Taryn Chapman, MS
    Courtnay Londo, MA
  • Style and Copy Editor
    Marian Deegan, JD
  • Web Edition Managers
    Arkady Shakhnovich
    Jermaine Royes
  • Contributing Writer
    Laurel H. Wood, MPA
  • Technical Reviewer
    Kayla Ohlde

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