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Rotavirus Vaccine - Unprotected Story

"I Just Wish We Had Known"

True story

I just wish we had known about this vaccine and had been able to get it to protect our boys.

"As first-time parents, we had never even heard of rotavirus until our twin boys got it," says Michele. "Even if I had heard of this disease before, I could not have imagined just how sick it would make my babies."

Michele's twins, William and Andrew, were born 2 months premature in April 2006. After much love, nurturing, and a diet of high-calorie formula to help them gain weight, the boys were thriving. Within a few months, they were healthy, happy infants with no evidence that they had been born early.

However, when they were 10 months old, they came down with severe diarrhea and vomiting. "They had so much vomiting and diarrhea that they were like limp little rag dolls," Michele describes. "William's eyes were sunk back in his head, and they both were so weak, they couldn't cry. It was agonizing to watch my children suffer, and I felt helpless to ease their pain."

The doctor immediately recognized rotavirus as the cause of their illnesses. Unfortunately, since the twins were already sick with the disease, vaccination could not help. The rotavirus vaccine had been licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended for all infants by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only a few months before William and Andrew's birth. When new vaccines are added to the recommended schedule, it can take several months for large numbers of vaccines to be manufactured and distributed throughout the United States.

For the next 5 weeks after the boys got sick, Michele and her husband kept constant vigil over them, trying to keep them hydrated. Making sure they drank enough to keep them going was the major challenge. "With the constant vomiting and diarrhea, the boys lost a lot of weight. It was like we were going back to square one again with fragile, premature infants."

If Michele and her husband had not been able to keep the boys hydrated at home by getting them to drink enough, the twins would have had to go to the hospital for IV fluids—a costly strain on the entire family, both emotionally and financially. Fortunately, the boys made a full recovery.

However, weeks of constant worry took a lasting toll on the family. Adding to the stress, the boys could not return to child care until they recovered, and the family had to go through a very difficult process to find a good baby sitter. That’s because Michele and her husband both used up the time they could take off from work before the babies were over their illnesses. "I had to hand over my very sick babies to someone else to care for them. I still get choked up and cry when I think about that stressful time," Michele explains.

"I just wish we had known about this vaccine and had been able to get it to protect our boys," says Michele. "I’d encourage parents to talk about this vaccine with their doctor, because it can save children and parents from so much suffering."

This story is one of many recounted in the fact sheets series, Diseases & the Vaccines that Prevent Them.

For other true stories, see Vaccines: Unprotected Stories.

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