Unvaccinated boy nearly dies of tetanus, running $811,929 in hospital bills, but parents still to refuse to vaccinate him

A specialist said that the whole affair could have been prevented with five doses of DTaP vaccine, with each dose costing around $24-$30


                            Unvaccinated boy nearly dies of tetanus, running $811,929 in hospital bills, but parents still to refuse to vaccinate him

An unvaccinated six-year-old boy in Oregon nearly died of tetanus, spending 47 days in ICU, and running $811,929 in hospital bills. The boy's parents, however, have continued to refuse to vaccinate him despite advice from medical experts.

The boy had reportedly cut his head while playing on his family's farm. Although his parents cleaned the wound and stitched it up, he developed severe symptoms six days later. Reports state that the child's neck was clenching and his neck and back were arched, signs of opisthotonus, muscle spasms, which are indicators of tetanus. The boy's case was reportedly profiled in a case study published by the Centers for Disease Control.

Shortly after his symptoms became severe, he was airlifted to a pediatric hospital where doctors confirmed he had tetanus. This was Oregon's first reported case of tetanus in more than 30 years. Vaccines have largely eradicated the disease in the region.

This was Oregon's first reported case of tetanus in more than 30 years. Vaccines have largely eradicated the disease in the region. (Getty Images)
This was Oregon's first reported case of tetanus in more than 30 years. Vaccines have largely eradicated the disease in the region. (Getty Images)

The boy was awake when he arrived at the hospital but could not open his mouth, had continued to have spasms and trouble in breathing. He was given an anti-tetanus immunoglobulin to treat the wound and the first round of the DTaP vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

Doctors fully cleaned his wound and put him in a dark room with ear plugs as noise could increase his spasms, according to PEOPLE.

However, the boy's condition worsened over the next few days as he developed high blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, and a high fever. He was later put on a ventilator and continued to stay in the intensive care unit for 47 days.

A pediatric infectious disease specialist at Oregon Health & Science University, Dr. Judith A. Guzman-Cottrill, who treated the boy said: "I honestly never thought I would see this disease in the United States. It was difficult — for many of us — to see him suffer," the New York Times reported. The doctor said that the whole incident could have been avoided with the DTaP vaccine. "The complex and prolonged care led to the high treatment cost,” she said.

“In contrast, the cost of one DTaP dose is somewhere around $24-$30 a dose, and this illness could have been prevented with five doses of DTaP vaccine.”

University of Miami pediatrician, Judith L. Schaechter, M.D., gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl in her office at the Miller School of Medicine on September 21, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Getty Images)
University of Miami pediatrician, Judith L. Schaechter, M.D., gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl in her office at the Miller School of Medicine on September 21, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Getty Images)

The boy, who has not been identified, was released after another ten days in the hospital and put in a rehabilitation center.

The boy's rehab stay lasted for 17 days, and a month after his rehab, he was able to engage in outdoor activities like biking and running. 

The doctors reportedly told the boy's parents that he should be given the next four DTaP doses and his other vaccinations after his near-fatal stay at the hospital. However, "despite an extensive review of the risks and benefits of tetanus vaccination" the boy's parents declined to get him the next doses, according to the study.

A certain section of people in the United States are vary of vaccinations and have increasingly refused to vaccinate their children, leading in fresh cases of major measles outbreaks in Washington and Oregon. The World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top threats to global health in 2019.