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Issue Number 150            March 22, 2000

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

Story #27:


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The following story was contributed via e-mail by "IAC EXPRESS" reader Ruth Edge, RN, and is reprinted here with her permission.


I have been a public health nurse in the field for the past 15 years. One of the families I met my first year as a nurse was a Latino couple who did not speak any English. Their little two-year-old girl had become suddenly ill and presented at the emergency room "moribund," as the hospital notes read. She remained in the hospital for five months with meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b, hovering between life and death. She was finally released to her parents' care with a shunt in her head. Within a few weeks, she was back in the hospital again due to shunt failure. She stayed for another month.

This spring that beautiful little girl will turn 18, but she has never had a chance to do what most teenagers do, or be what most teenagers are. She is unable to talk, or walk, or perform any activities of daily living by herself. Her mother--illiterate in both Spanish and English--has cared for her night and day as well as any intensive care nurse ever could by learning about everything from medication administration to gastrostomy tube care and feedings. 

All of this could have been prevented through a simple vaccination. Tragically, it was a year and a half after that little girl was first hospitalized before the Hib vaccine became available for public use in our immunization programs. The girl's mother has diligently kept her other children on schedule with immunizations. 

Whenever I give immunizations, I carry this special girl's face in my mind. And if anyone begins to question the value of immunizations, I say, "Let me tell you about a young friend of mine. . ."

Ruth Edge, RN
Powell, WY


For more information on Haemophilus influenzae type b disease, visit the "What Would Happen if We Stopped Vaccinations" web page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at:

IAC 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, that describe the suffering that occurred because someone wasn't immunized. In addition, we are also collecting case reports to help us illustrate the morbidity and mortality caused by vaccine-preventable diseases.

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

To read "Unprotected People" stories that were previously published in "IAC EXPRESS" visit:

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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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
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    Laurel H. Wood, MPA
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