One morning in December last year, 7-year-old Alijah Williams woke up with a sunken face, screaming in agony. Within 36 hours, he was overcome with body spasms and rushed to an Auckland hospital.
It was there that Alijah’s parents, Ian and Linda, discovered their middle child had contracted tetanus, a potentially fatal disease.
Alijah was transferred to intensive care and put in an induced coma on life support, heavily sedated against his body’s convulsions. Fortunately he survived, and on January 8, after spending 26 days in an Auckland hospital he was discharged in a wheelchair.
Despite this positive outcome, Alijah still has spasms and faces a year of ongoing medication and rehabilitation, including learning to eat and walk again.
There’s no doubt Alijah’s terrifying ordeal was one the Williams family could not have possibly foreseen. But the truth is that it could have been prevented very easily.
The Williams decided against vaccinating their three children, believing they had made an informed choice due to concerns and information about adverse reactions.= display_ad('x18', 'hidden-xs hidden-md mm_incontent', 'MM In Content'); ?>= display_ad('x20', 'visible-xs mm_mob_incontent', 'MM In Content (Mobile)'); ?>
Now, the couple have publicly acknowledged what happened to their son was a direct result of that decision.
This from The New Zealand Herald:
“It was me that put my son in this situation,” Mr Williams said.
“Parents like us make the decision to not vaccinate on very little factual information about the actual consequences of the diseases – massive pain, disability and death – and a lot of non-factual, emotive information from the internet stating inflated figures on the frequency and severity of adverse reactions and conspiracy theories about ‘evil’ doctors, governments and drug companies.”
“Believing myths about vaccines is not the same as getting the facts. And that is the core problem.”
The parents have since immunised their other two children, Emias, 9, and Jaiya, 2.
They also wrote to Alijah’s school to warn parents of the dangers of not vaccinating their children.
Mr Williams – a scientist, inventor and businessman – now believes that much of the information the couple used to inform their decision was inaccurate, telling Stuff.co.nz:
“When it came to my kid’s health, I let the hippy win. I should have let the science win.”
The decision of whether or not to vaccinate is quite simply a matter of life and death. As Alijah’s parents discovered, the abundance of research, pseudo-science and pure speculation online and pushed by the anti-vaccination lobby makes it hard for parents to be sure their decision is being guided by accurate information.