Grieving parents speak out against anti-vaccination extremists

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ON March 9, 2009, four-week-old Dana McCaffery's heart stopped after whooping cough left her tiny lungs unable to breathe.


Her mother Toni could not watch as medical staff unhooked her daughter from the hopelessly inadequate life support system, but her husband Dave did, and crumpled with grief.

"Dave was screaming," says Toni.

"I told him to be quiet. I just wanted to soothe my child."

As Toni held her tiny baby, she couldn't comprehend the loss, or how they would survive the sorrow.

Little did they know then that Dana's death from whooping cough, and the media coverage that followed, came to represent a very inconvenient truth to the anti-vaccination lobby – and thus began an extraordinary campaign against this grieving family.

The McCafferys are today breaking their silence on the cyber bullying,the anonymous letters and the cruelty of some members of the anti-vaccination movement.

The couple has been accused of being on the payroll of drug companies; they have had their daughter's death questioned and mocked; they have even been told to "harden the f . . . up" by an opponent of vaccination.

Written By: Jane Hansen
continue to source article at news.com.au

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  1. This is just inconceivably heinous. As a parent who has lost a child, I can sympathize with the pain of Dana’s parents. My son was murdered and I had to deal with the insensitivity of law enforcement and ignorant assertions that my son was “just in the wrong place at the wrong time” and so on – but to have to deal with the onslaught that the McAffery family has suffered is just beyond anything I can imagine. Attacking grieving parents this way should be legally considered a form of assault, if not already covered under anti-harassment or hate crime laws. I hope the Australian government nails the anti-vaxxer haters and their despicable leader with prison time.
    Through a support group for grieving parents I met the family of a little 8-yr.-old boy who died of SSPE. I’ve posted about this case before – it was an unbelievable outrage that any child should die of complications of measles in the 21st century . This boy’s death was the direct result of a selfish, uninformed decision by the parents of another child not to vaccinate. The boy who died contracted measles as a young infant from this older child. Both survived the primary infection, but my friends’ child died years later from SSPE – an agonizing degeneration of the brain caused by latent measles virus activation. To allow this to happen when it can be so easily prevented is, to my mind, no better than murder. As a mother and a nurse, I’m just completely appalled and outraged by stories like this – and spurred to action to redouble my efforts to educate parents on the need for vaccination, counter misinformation, and work with nurse legislators to enact stricter laws pertaining to vaccine exemptions for school and daycare attendance.

  2. I debated this with someone who argued against vaccination. They argued that babies all the time have severe side effects to vaccinations. There should be some way of only vaccinating when absolutely necessary. I tried to explain than postponing gives you no window; there is no way to suddenly round up everyone who might be infected. All it takes is one person to slip through to start a new pocked of infection. You have to be ready ahead of time.

    • In reply to #2 by Roedy:

      I debated this with someone who argued against vaccination. They argued that babies all the time have severe side effects to vaccinations. There should be some way of only vaccinating when absolutely necessary. I tried to explain than postponing gives you no window; there is no way to suddenly rou…

      a simpler response would be to ask them to show their data. this “all the time” comment suggests there’s a massive global cover up, or maybe just an emotive term that has actually no statistical meaning whatsoever. one of the two…

  3. I’m having trouble understanding the article.

    What does the baby’s death have to do with anti-vaccination? As far as I can tell, she died of whooping cough in the hospital, shortly after being born, and there was nothing anybody could have done. I don’t understand why the anti-vaccination crowd would be so angry against the family because of that.

    Was the baby denied vaccination by doctors who didn’t believe in it? That doesn’t make sense, since the article says the baby was too young to be vaccinated anyway.

    Are the anti-vaccination crowd or the doctors trying to argue that the baby died of something else? The article seems to hint at that (i.e., by the quote “She wanted proof that Dana actually died of whooping cough”), but never explicitly states it or explains why they think it was something else.

    Regardless – I do feel terribly sorry for their tragic loss and all the b.s. they’ve had to endure since.

    • In reply to #3 by Nerevarine:

      I’m having trouble understanding the article.

      What does the baby’s death have to do with anti-vaccination? As far as I can tell, she died of whooping cough in the hospital, shortly after being born, and there was nothing anybody could have done. I don’t understand why the anti-vaccination crowd wou…

      Anti-vaccination breaks heard immunity and whooping cough could have been brought to this child by an exposed adult who might have been a vector or infected himself. I am vaccinated against whooping cough just for this reason. In my mid 60′s I do not think whooping cough is much of a danger to me but I still could be a vector to a disease that could infect an unvaccinated child.

    • In reply to #3 by Nerevarine:

      I’m having trouble understanding the article.

      What does the baby’s death have to do with anti-vaccination? As far as I can tell, she died of whooping cough in the hospital, shortly after being born, and there was nothing anybody could have done. I don’t understand why the anti-vaccination crowd would be so angry against the family because of that.

      When Dana died of whooping cough at 4 weeks of age, Meryl Dorey (on her blog) first doubted that it was pertussis that killed her and then wrote that doctors said she “she probably did come into contact with pertussis in the hospital – not after she went home.” This was a double denial – when she couldn’t substantiate her idea that it was something other than pertussis (like the doctors are going to release confidential medical information to her just like that) Meryl spread the idea that it was hospital-acquired i.e. not because there was a failure of herd immunity in the local population (not that it makes a difference – where do they think pertussis enters hospitals?)

      So Dana’s death was an inconvenient truth – she’d died of a lab-verified vaccine-preventable illness and Dana’s parents were putting her forward as a case of why you should immunise. So, in the spirit of rational and scientific enquiry, Dorey and her fellow crazies took it upon themselves to pilliory the parents as shills for Big Pharma cashing in on their daughter’s death…

    • In reply to #3 by Nerevarine:

      What does the baby’s death have to do with anti-vaccination? As far as I can tell, she died of whooping cough in the hospital, shortly after being born, and there was nothing anybody could have done. I don’t understand why the anti-vaccination crowd wou…

      As others have explained the only way babies who are two young for vaccination can be protected from whooping cough is if anyone they have been exposed to is vaccinated. In a lot of countries doctors are recommending the extended family of an expecting couple all get vaccinated.

      Michael

  4. I’m a new parent and I’ve had to refrain from the vaccine debate – it makes me too angry and the way I phrase things upsets the delicate petals who think they know better than the entire scientific community.

  5. Pertussis vaccination is not given until two months so the baby could not have been resistant. I was in my younger days sceptical of some, not all, vaccination, but my ignorance has been replaced by SCIENTIFIC knowledge.Also I must add that I was never like the appalling vitriolic people who contacted the parents of the baby. The part of Australia, North East New South Wales, involved, has many so-called alternative lifestyle adherents or maybe fanatics is a better word, plus the usual conspiracy theory stuff.

  6. I think the issue of heard immunity, as well explained by others here, compounds the immorality of the anti-vaccine crackpots – especially in this disgraceful case.
    It is NOT just you and your children that are endangered because of your stupidity, ignorance and appeals to “personal choice” – it is all of society.
    These people are partially (or directly) responsible for the death of the near-defenceless.

  7. Oh my, now I understand the severity of this. If some family decides not to vaccinate themselves / their children out of irrational fear, then that breaks herd immunity which therefore poses a danger to people who are unable to be vaccinated for various reasons (too young, allergy, whatever). So, the anti-vax crowd thinks the whole concept of herd immunity is a myth? That is scary.

  8. I’d like to engage directly with a number of comments on this thread, but, my “Reply” button has packed up; AGAIN!

    Herd is the word; break the chain and we’re all vulnerable.

    I’d like to know precisely what Andrew Wakefield was thinking when he produced his now infamous research paper; was it deliberate fraud or a genuine mistake?

    It seems, from what he persists in saying to this day, to be the former.

    But, of course all we know is that he produced a fraudulent paper.

    • In reply to #15 by Stafford Gordon:

      I’d like to know precisely what Andrew Wakefield was thinking when he produced his now infamous research paper

      Fast cars and long holidays probably. His “research” was carried out at the behest of litigants making (wholly speculative) claims that their kids’ ailments were down to MMR. He was the tobacco scientist paid to prop up their very shaky case. He received nearly £500,000 personally to do this work, partly (I am ashamed to say) from the British state.

      He had a further interest in trashing the MMR vaccine. Wakefield—in partnership with the father of one of the boys in the study—had planned to launch a venture on the back of an MMR vaccination scare that would profit from new medical tests and “litigation driven testing”. The Washington Post reported that Brian Deer (a Channel 4 investigative reporter) said that Wakefield predicted he “could make more than $43 million a year from diagnostic kits” for the new condition, autistic enterocolitis. There is no such illness. He made it up.

    • In reply to #15 by Stafford Gordon:

      I’d like to engage directly with a number of comments on this thread, but, my “Reply” button has packed up; AGAIN!

      Herd is the word; break the chain and we’re all vulnerable.

      I’d like to know precisely what Andrew Wakefield was thinking when he produced his now infamous research paper; was it deli…

      Undisclosed conflicts of interest, among other things: http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5258

    • In reply to #18 by Krasny:

      You could be heartless and see child deaths from non-vaccination as natural selection kicking in.

      Or you could read the article and the comments and realise that in the case of whooping cough it is not the anti-vax parents children who are dying but the pro-vax parents children. So how does natural selection come into play ?

      Michael

  9. In reply to #18 by Krasny:

    You could be heartless and see child deaths from non-vaccination as natural selection kicking in.

    Natural selection against what trait exactly?
    As the stupidity of those who don’t vaccinate their children endagers countless other people who cannot be vaccinated for various reasons, such as being too young, it would seem that this ‘selection’ is mostly indiscriminate.

    • In reply to #23 by Seraphor:

      In reply to #18 by Krasny:

      You could be heartless and see child deaths from non-vaccination as natural selection kicking in.

      Natural selection against what trait exactly?

      As the stupidity of those who don’t vaccinate their children endagers countless other people who cannot be vaccinated for vari…

      Stupidity.

      Like I said I am being heartless.

  10. Until there are some genuine consequences to their actions I don’t see much changing. By genuine consequences I mean such things as them being barred from shops, bars, community centers etc, very loudly and publicly. Actions like denying their organisations charitable status. Barring their children from schools. (And I agree there is a major problem in letting children suffer because of the stupidity of the parents.)

    Personally I declare open season on these nutters, for anything which does not cross into illegality.

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