Tag: religious exemptions

Tetanus and Tetanus Shots

Tetanus is a vaccine-preventable disease that is caused by the Clostridium tetani bacteria.

Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury?
Can an unvaccinated child really get tetanus after a toe nail injury? Photo by Petrus Rudolf de Jong (CC BY 3.0)

Unlike most other infections though, tetanus isn’t contagious. Instead, spores of Clostridium tetani get into dirty wounds and then begin to grow into active bacteria.

The now “awake” Clostridium tetani bacteria then begin producing exotoxins that cause the symptoms of a tetanus infection.

In the pre-vaccine era, there were about 500 to 600 cases of tetanus in the US each year and about 165 deaths.

Fortunately, tetanus is rare now, as most folks are vaccinated, but we do see some cases in kids who are intentionally not vaccinated or in seniors who haven’t gotten a tetanus booster in a long while.

The unvaccinated child with the toe nail injury?

“A 4-year-old Caucasian boy presented with a one-week history of general malaise, mild fever, indolence and anorexia. He subsequently developed dysphagia, sialorrhoea, difficulties opening the mouth and eventually dehydration… Together with the lack of immunization and a toe nail infection, this lead to the suspicion of a generalized tetanus infection… The frequency and severity of paroxysmal muscle spasms increased progressively during his PICU stay, despite high doses of sedatives. Not before two weeks after admittance, extubation and careful weaning off sedatives was achieved.”

Generalized tetanus in a 4-year old boy presenting with dysphagia and trismus: a case report

He was unvaccinated “based on religious grounds” and had recently injured his toe, resulting “in a small local hematoma and loose toenail.” It also resulted in his getting tetanus and a 30 day stay in the hospital.

What Are the Symptoms of Tetanus?

Unvaccinated children can develop symptoms of tetanus two days to two months (average incubation period is two weeks) after getting a wound that is contaminated by tetanus spores.

“It was hideous. He was spasming every three minutes. He was biting his tongue and bleeding. His arms were spasming and he was arching his back and his whole face and jaw was completely locked.”

Linda Williams on her unvaccinated 7-year-old son’s bout of tetanus

The most characteristic symptoms are painful muscle spasms that gradually get worse over a week, including:

  • spasms of the muscles around their mouth, giving the typical “lockjaw” appearance of tetanus
  • spasms of the muscles around the throat, which can make it hard to swallow
  • spasms of the chest muscles, making it difficult to breath
  • spasms of the muscles in the neck, back, arms, legs, and abdomen

Other associated symptoms can include fever, headache, irritability, tachycardia (high heart rate), urinary retention (secondary to bladder muscle spasm), low blood pressure or high blood pressure.

How Do You Diagnose Tetanus?

Tetanus is usually diagnosed in someone with painful muscle spasms and history of a dirty wound.

It is important to keep in mind that your child is not only at risk for tetanus following the classic case of stepping on a rusty nail – a classic myth about tetanus.

Tetanus spores live in the soil and so almost any dirty wound can lead to tetanus infections. Although puncture wounds are the most common that lead to tetanus, scrapes, burns, snake bites, dog bites, and even spider bites can also cause tetanus if the wounds becomes contaminated with dirt or feces.

Testing for the Clostridium tetani in the original wound is sometimes possible, but is not necessary for a diagnosis of tetanus, since it is technically difficult to do.

Neonatal tetanus can occur in newborns if their mother isn’t immunized against tetanus and their umbilical cord stump gets contaminated.

How Do You Treat Tetanus?

The treatments for tetanus can include sedation and mechanical ventilation and:

  • human tetanus immunoglobulin (TIG) to try and neutralize the tetanus toxin
  • antibiotics, such as penicillin G, metronidazole, erythromycin, or tetracycline
  • muscle relaxants, such as diazepam, magnesium sulfate, midazolam, and baclofen
  • neuromuscular blocking agents, such as vecuronium and pancuronium, which cause paralysis

If you have ever read a story about a child who has needed treatment for tetanus, you will likely opt for a tetanus shot instead.

Do I Need a Tetanus Shot?

Like other vaccine-preventable diseases, keeping up-to-date on your child’s immunizations can help to prevent your child from ever getting tetanus.

One thing that complicates tetanus is that your child may still need a tetanus shot, even if they are fully vaccinated, if it has been five or more years since his last tetanus shot and he has:

  • a wound that is contaminated with dirt, feces, or saliva
  • a puncture wound
  • an avulsion wound, in which part of the wound is pulled away from the other part
  • a wound caused by crush injury, burn, or frostbite

So if your child had a tetanus shot at age four (the DTaP vaccine kids get before starting kindergarten), then he may need a tetanus shot if he gets a dirty wound before he gets a tetanus booster when he is 11 or 12 years old (the Tdap vaccine).

And yes, a tetanus shot will work in these situations, even if you have already been exposed to the tetanus spores. But no, letting a wound bleed a lot won’t flush out the spores. These are other myths about tetanus and tetanus shots that you might hear.

What to Know About Tetanus and Tetanus Shots

See your pediatrician as soon as possible if your child needs a tetanus shot after getting a dirty wound.

More About Tetanus and Tetanus Shots

10 Reasons to Not Vaccinate Your Kids

The Pontifical Academy for Life reaffirmed the
The Pontifical Academy for Life reaffirmed the “lawfulness” of using vaccines to protect children and those around them.

Parents often have their reasons for why their kids aren’t vaccinated.

But whether they have a medical exemption, personal belief exemption, or a religious exemption to getting vaccines, they often have the same reasons for not believing in vaccines.

What are some of them?

They might be scared of toxins.

They might think that vaccines don’t work.

They might think that vaccines aren’t necessary anymore and that they can just hide in the herd.

They are just trying to fit in at a Waldorf school

10 Reasons to Not Vaccinate Your Kids

In addition to simply being scared about things they have heard on the Internet, some of the reasons that parents don’t vaccinate their kids include that:

  1. they are vegan – many vegans vaccinate their kids
  2. they are Catholic – most Catholics vaccinate their kids – Pope Francis even led an oral polio vaccination drive recently
  3. their child is on antibiotics – having a mild illness is not usually a good reason to skip or delay getting vaccines
  4. their child had an allergic reaction to a vaccine – a severe, anaphylactic reaction to one vaccine or vaccine ingredient wouldn’t mean that your child couldn’t or shouldn’t get all or most of the others
  5. they are Jewish – most Jews vaccinate their kids
  6. a doctor wrote them a medical exemption – there are actually very few true contraindications to getting vaccinated and a permanent exemption to all vaccines would be extremely rare, which casts doubt on the ever growing rate of medical exemptions in many areas
  7. they are Muslim – most Muslims vaccinate their kids and most Islamic countries have very good immunization rates.
  8. someone at home is immunocompromised – since we stopped giving the oral polio vaccine, shedding from vaccines is not a big concern and contacts of those who are immunocompromised are usually encouraged to get vaccinated
  9. they are Buddhist – most Buddhists vaccinate their kids – the Dalai Lama even led an oral polio vaccination drive recently and Buddhist countries have very good immunization rates.
  10. someone in their family had a vaccine reaction – a family history of a vaccine reaction is not a good reason to skip or delay getting vaccinated, as it has not been shown to increase your own child’s risk of a reaction. And yes, this has even been shown for siblings of autistic children, which makes sense, since vaccines don’t cause autism.

What about other religions?

Whether you are Hindu, non-Catholic Christians, Amish, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc., remember that all major religions believe in vaccines. Of course, the Amish are a little more selective of when and which vaccines they will get, but as we saw in the Ohio measles outbreak, they do get vaccinated.

On the other hand, Christian Scientists don’t vaccinate, along with some small Christian churches that believe in faith healing and avoid modern medical care.

Still, most people understand why it is important to vaccinate their kids.

What to Know About These Reasons to Not Vaccinate Your Kids

What do you think about these reasons to not vaccinate your kids? Since they aren’t really absolute reasons to not get vaccinated, are you ready to get your kids vaccinated now?

More About Reasons to Not Vaccinate Your Kids

Faith Tabernacle Congregation church

The Faith Tabernacle Congregation church and their church run school were part of a large measles outbreak in Philadelphia, in which the church saw 486 cases of measles and 6 deaths among their members.

And this wasn’t in the 1940s or 50s, before we had a measles vaccine.

This happened in 1991.

There were other measles cases and deaths in the city and nationwide that year. In fact, between 1989 to 1991, there were 55,622 cases and 123 deaths in the United States, a big increase that was blamed on falling immunization rates.

What was different about the Faith Tabernacle Congregation church outbreak was that all of the children were unvaccinated and, as a faith-healing church, they refused medical care even once they got measles.

Health officials eventually had to get a court order to force the parents in the congregation to vaccinate their children.

Ultimately, only nine children from church got vaccinated though.

For More Information On The Faith Tabernacle Congregation:

Aborted Fetal Tissue

Vaccines do not contain aborted fetal tissue.

Some vaccines are made with fetal embryo fibroblast cells from cell lines that are derived (they can replicate infinitely) from two electively terminated pregnancies in the 1960s. That certainly does not mean that any vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue or fetal parts though.

The original cells aren’t even involved in making these vaccines. The cells used today have been copied, over and over again. And even then, they are removed before the final vaccine is produced.

For more information: