As I was going through my folder of woo (that is, a folder where I keep links to articles and studies that represent potential blogging material), I came across one of the saddest stories I’ve ever seen. It’s from last month and about a letter written by the father of a boy who died of whooping cough. The child was Riley Hughes, who was only 32 days old when he died, and the father is Greg Hughes, from Western Australia. He wrote the letter three years ago when his son died and read it at his funeral. He shared it a week and a half ago on Facebook:
This passage brought a tear to my eye:
Much like myself, you ate, slept, grunted, and ate some more. Whilst other babies woke up their parents by wailing and shrieking, you gently snuffled in your bassinet and were perfectly content, and loved having your back patted as you drifted off blissfully.
Even when you decided to wait until I’d removed your nappy before spray-painting me with impeccable aim, I quickly forgave you upon looking into your enormous blue eyes as you gazed at me, your strong neck working overtime to ensure you didnt miss a minute of the action.
Life was perfect. Our family of four was complete.
And then…. you were gone.
I stand here completely bereft of words suitable to convey the enormity of loss I’m currently experiencing. I’m devastated, angry, heartbroken, empty, lost, confused, bewildered. My world has been thrown into chaos.
But somehow, as you always seemed to do whenever I’m feeling down, you’ve helped my find solace.
The name Riley means courageous or valiant, and in 32 days you’ve achieved more than I ever could have dreamt to achieve in 32 lifetimes.
I want to be mad at you for leaving me behind; my house empty, my three year old bossy, my wife likewise. But I find an inner comfort in the fact that you were put here with a purpose.
You’ve changed the world in such a short period of time and you’ve made incredible changes to all of our lives.
The Hughes family have said they want to ensure that Riley Hughes’ passing was not in vain by educating families on the importance of vaccination, which they have done by partnering with the Immunisation Foundation of Australia to tell Riley’s story on the Light for Riley Project:
During his last few days with us, we discovered that women in the UK, USA, Belgium and New Zealand were being recommended a whooping cough vaccine in their third trimester. This vaccine, usually given between 28-32 weeks gestation, provides the unborn baby with the necessary antibodies to protect them from this terrible disease.
Since the introduction of this pregnancy vaccine, the UK has seen a reduction in infant deaths from pertussis by over 90%.
Two days after Riley’s death, our state government announced the introduction of a program where these third trimester booster shots would be offered free of charge to pregnant women.
Other states soon followed, and now all states and territories in Australia have free whooping cough booster shots for pregnant women.
The support by the Australian government continued with the introduction of the official No Jab, No Pay arrangement on the 1st January 2016. The arrangement is in relation to parents who chose not to vaccinate their children now being ineligible for a number of government rebates.
I’ve discussed the maternal Tdap vaccination before. It’s safe and effective and, contrary to the claims of antivaxers, not associated with autism in the child.
Unfortunately, reactions of antivaxers to the Hughes family letter are not only predictable, but nasty. For instance, take a look at what the “Drs. Wolfson” have to say about it. The Drs. Wolfson are Dr. Jack Wolfson, a cardiologist in Phoenix, and his wife Not-a-Doctor Heather Wolfson, a chiropractor. (I know, I know. I usually use “Not-a-Doctor” for naturopaths, because they like to put “ND” after their names, but the title certainly also applies to chiropractors.) Of cours,e I’ve written about Dr. Wolfson before. He’s rabidly antivaccine, frequently spewing false balance about antivaccine views and heaping contempt upon the parents of immunosuppressed children who express concern about unvaccinated children. Yes, he’s a real piece of work.
If you don’t believe me, check out this Facebook post he wrote in response to Greg Hughes’ sharing of his letter about his dead son:
After disingenuously (and very unconvincingly) stating that their heart “goes out to this family after their baby dies,” the “Drs. Wolfson” get down and dirty:
But why does anyone think the answer is to vaccinate the masses?
Um, because it works? Yes, I know that the acellular vaccine against pertussis is imperfect. I know that there can be waning immunity, a problem that antivaxers like to invoke to use the “Nirvana fallacy” to argue, in essence, that if a vaccine isn’t perfect it’s useless and we shouldn’t use it at all. However, it’s quite clear that vaccinating against pertussis protects against pertussis and that vaccinating mothers against pertussis during their pregnancy also protects against pertussis in the newborn.
Now here’s where the “Drs. Wolfson” go totally off the rails:
Who treated the baby? Did they use dangerous fever reducers like ibuprofen and acetamenophen? The sickness system with IV antibiotics and radiation procedures like a chest x-ray?
So you’re saying that pediatricians shouldn’t use antibiotics like erythromycin to treat pertussis? Funny, but pediatricians would disagree. As for chest x-rays, Wolfson makes it sound as though the amount of radiation in a single (or even several) chest X-rays would make the difference between life and death in a child with pertussis. That is despicable bullshit.
Or did the baby see a chiropractor and get adjusted or see another holistic doctor? Did the baby get vitamin C IV therapy and Argentyn Silver? What about vitamin A? Vitamin D? Sunshine?
What vaccines did this baby get at birth that further weakened and compromised it’s immune system from the get go? Vitamin K shot? Antibiotic eye ointment?
Chiropractic can’t treat pertussis. Vitamin C won’t treat pertussis. Colloidal silver won’t treat pertussis (although too much of it might turn you blue). The neonatal vitamin K shot is not only safe, but it prevents hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. Vitamin A, vitamin D, and sunshine would not have prevented pertussis. The “Drs. Wolfson” are again trying to use specious claims to imply without evidence that Riley was vulnerable and could have been saved if only his parents had believed in and subjected him to the sort of unproven “prevention” that he believes in. In doing this, he is trying to blame the victim, blame the parents, for the death of their son. There’s only one word for that: unspeakably despicable.
What was the mom’s health like in utero? Did she receive the Tdap and Flu shot during her pregnancy? Mom health equals baby health.
Yeah, like the “Drs. Wolfson” think that the flu or Tdap vaccine during pregnancy is a good thing. The whole point of the campaign that the Hughes family is supporting is to educate parents that mothers should receive the Tdap vaccine between 28-32 weeks gestation.
The “Drs. Wolfson” get even more vile and despicable:
Was baby breast fed?
Was the baby born at home or in a building designed to house the sickest of the sick (hospital)?
What chemicals was baby exposed to? Toxic laundry, dryer sheets/fabric softener, personal care, mattress, household chemicals?
New paint in the “baby room”
This baby and all others like them do not die of a vaccine deficiency.
They die because of a toxic, polluted world.
Whooping cough vaccine is not very effective.
It is not the answer.
So. Many. Fallacies. For instance, yes, breast feeding is good. However, it’s no panacea that could be expected prevent death from pertussis. As for all the rambling about “toxins,” that’s just misdirection to try to blame Riley Hughes’ death on something other than pertussis or to imply that the parents did something wrong when they didn’t. Yes, it’s another transparent attempt at blaming the victim, something that antivaxers and alternative medicine practitioners are so good at. Indeed, the “Drs. Wolfson” make that explicit in the conclusion of their little Facebook screed:
The answer is to make the population stronger with healthy living, not tear it down with chemicals in the name of artificial immunity.
Everyone who has a baby needs to have a chiropractor on speed dial and one who is experienced in functional medicine and all the life saving supplements parents should have stocked in their pantries for what should be little bumps in the road for a newborn.
Note the common antivax trope that immunity from vaccines is somehow “artificial” while “natural immunity” is to be preferred. Of course, the problem with this is that “natural immunity” is not necessarily permanent and, to get “natural immunity,” you have to suffer through the disease. As for the rest, if you’re not terrified by the very thought of a baby being “adjusted” by a chiropractor, you should be.
The bottom line is that the “Drs. Wolfson” are vile quacks who blame and attack victims of antivaccine quackery.