In a heartbreaking call to parents to vaccinate their children, Alecia Rankin posted a photo of her hospitalized niece strapped to IVs last week on Facebook. The 7-week-old Aryn contracted invasive Hib, a serious disease that led to a bacterial infection in her bloodstream.
The Tennessee aunt took to Facebook to share "reason #1736493983283763 to vaccinate your kids," saying that "her doctor hasn’t seen (the disease) in her career because this bacteria caused by Hib flu was all but eradicated by vaccines."
Hib was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis, a dangerous infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, among children under 5 in the U.S. before the vaccine was approved in the early '90s. Prior to the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20,000 kids in the U.S. in that age range got the disease each year. About 3 percent to 6 percent of them died. Since the vaccine was first administered, the number of cases has dropped by more than 99 percent.
Aryn was just under the specified age for vaccination, which, according to the CDC, would be at around 2 months old for the first dose, with a final dose at 12 to 15 months old. Depending on which vaccine used, children will receive three to four doses.
"So before you decide not to vaccinate your children because 'it’s your choice' and 'those who are vaccinated won’t be affected,' remember that babies can get sick before they have the chance to get their vaccine," Rankin wrote.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, herd or community immunity prevents outbreaks because a critical portion of the community is immunized against a contagious disease, such as the measles, mumps and rotavirus.
"Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—such as infants, pregnant women or immunocompromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained," the site reads.
It's unclear how Aryn caught the disease, but children can catch Hib by being around other kids or adults who have the bacteria but don't know it. Rankin's call, though, doesn't seem to be changing many anti-vaxxers's minds. Comments on the photo she shared of Aryn expressed doubts about the Hib vaccination and reconfirmed their positions.
"Sorry about your niece. But my 17-month-old is unvaccinated and I wouldn't have it any other way," one mom wrote. "I have done so much research and I'm comfortable with my decision."
Others voiced fears that vaccines are "poison" and said anti-vaxxers aren't to blame, adding that calls to vaccinate are from "internet trolls on pharma's payroll." (Science Mag and USA Today are two good places that debunk several vaccination myths.)
The good news: Aryn's condition was caught early enough, according to Rankin's update, and she was able to go home from the hospital.