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Mom Regrets Saying No to Vaccines After Her 7 Kids Get Whooping Cough

The Short of It

Tara Hills, who lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, found herself quarantined in her home after all seven of her kids came down with whooping cough. If she could go back in time to have them get vaccines, she says she would.

The Lowdown

Tara was formerly very skeptical of vaccines. She and her husband vaccinated their first three kids on alternate vaccine schedules and then eventually chose not to have the youngest four vaccinated at all, she says in a post on TheScientificParent.org.

"We stopped because we were scared and didn't know who to trust," Tara says. "Was the medical community just paid off puppets of a Big Pharma-Government-Media conspiracy? Were these vaccines even necessary in this day and age? Were we unwittingly doing greater harm than help to our beloved children? So much smoke must mean a fire so we defaulted to the 'do nothing and hope nothing bad happens' position."

But then something bad happened. The youngest three kids began coughing so hard they'd gag, vomit and bring up stringy mucus. They had whooping cough.

According to the CDC, whooping cough, also known as pertussis, begins with cold-like symptoms, but after a week or two it progresses into serious coughing fits that can sometimes have a loud "whoop" sound. It can last 10 weeks or more and can cause slowed breathing, pneumonia and other respiratory infections, and even convulsions. One or 2 in 100 infants hospitalized with whooping cough dies.

Tara went to the hospital with her 10-month-old; she and her family have been under quarantine in their home as they recover; and she worries they could have passed the illness to her 5-month-old niece, who's too young to be vaccinated. She posted this recording of her kids' coughs, which sounds awful.

The Upshot

"I set out to prove that we were right," Tara told the Washington Post, "and in the process found out how wrong we were."

She's now spreading the word that she regrets her decision not to vaccinate and that she plans to get her kids up to date on immunizations.

I can understand why some parents are skeptical of vaccines—we all want to protect our kids—but we have to make a decision between what sounds scarier: The vaccine itself or the disease it protects against. Whooping cough seems pretty darn scary to me. The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) both recommend following the same standard vaccine schedule, and if your child's immunizations are out of date, there are "catch up" schedules, too.

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