Unvaccinated Oregon Boy Contracts Tetanus, Spends Two Months In hospital for Over $800K In Medical Treatments

An unvaccinated 6-year-old Oregon boy was hospitalized for two months after he contracted tetanus following an injury on a farm. His family racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical treatment to save his life.

The report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this was the first pediatric tetanus case in the state in almost 30 years.

According to the report, in 2017 the child sustained an injury to his forehead while playing outside. Following the accident, the laceration was "cleaned and sutured at home."

Six days later, the child experienced muscle spasms, jaw clenching and difficulty breathing. At that time, his parents called for emergency services and the child was airlifted to a local medical center. Despite receiving treatment, the child, on his fifth day in the hospital, required a tracheal tube and, as he experienced spasms in his diaphragm and larynx, had to be placed on a ventilator.

According to the report, the child remained on a ventilator and a neuromuscular blocker for more than a month. He also spent time "in a darkened room with ear plugs and minimal stimulation," as light and loud noise generated more spasms. He was also treated with metronidazole and other antibiotics through an IV to help regulate his blood pressure and heart rate, and fight off a severe fever.

After spending 57 days in the hospital, the child was moved to a rehabilitation center where he regained the ability to walk, run and bike within 17 days.

Doctors gave the child a diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) during the course of his eight-weeks of treatment, which the CDC estimated to cost more than $800,000. However, the estimate did not include the cost of air transportation, inpatient rehabilitation and the use of an ambulance, the report said.

Despite the recommendation of doctors, the child's parents refused a second dose of the DTaP vaccination and other vaccines.

The CDC report said tetanus vaccines have contributed to a "95 percent decline in the number of tetanus cases and a 99 percent decrease in the number of tetanus-related deaths since the 1940s." The CDC also recommends that children be given five doses of the DTaP vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, at 15–18 months of age and at 4 to 6 years of age.

Additional booster doses are recommended every 10 years throughout life.

Under Oregon law, parents may forgo vaccinations for philosophical reasons. A similar law in Washington state has led to a measles outbreak that has sickened at least 75 people, most of them unvaccinated children.

Oregon lawmakers are currently debating a bill that would remove all but exemptions issued for medical reasons and require children be fully vaccinated in order to attend school.

tetanus shot
St. Luke's Work Well Clinic Medical Assistant Crissy Parmeter gives a tetanus shot to an Iowa resident at the St. Luke's Work Well Clinic June 16, 2008, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. According to the CDC, tetanus vaccines have contributed to a 95 percent decline in the number of tetanus cases and a 99 percent decrease in the number of tetanus-related deaths since the 1940s. Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images