11-Month-Old Suffers Stroke After Chickenpox — Shining a Light on the Importance of Vaccines

The case of an unimmunized baby who suffered a stroke after contracting chickenpox is shining a light on the importance of vaccinations

Person receiving vaccination against influenza
Photo: Getty

An 11-month-old boy suffered a stroke after contracting chickenpox, which he likely got from his older siblings, according to a new report. The boy had not been immunized, and the case is shining a light on the importance of vaccination.

The unnamed boy suffered the chickenpox-related stroke after likely contracting the infection from his older siblings who had the illness about two months earlier, according to a report published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The boy’s mother took him to a local hospital after noticing his right arm and leg seemed weak when she woke him from his afternoon nap, according to the journal. Doctors came to find that the boy had suffered a brain stroke, and was given several medications.

Although the boy survived, Dr. Tina Tan, chairwoman of the section on infectious diseases for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told Today that the boy will likely have permanent damage as a result of the incident.

“It is possible that he might have another stroke if his arterial disease continues to worsen,” Tan added.

injecting injection vaccine vaccination medicine flu woman docto

Tan told the site that people often regard chickenpox as a minor illness, when it can cause “serious complications.” There have been several chickenpox cases in recent months, as a result of parents opting out of vaccination, Today reports.

Last year’s flu season was devastating, with several children and adults dying from flu-related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed the 2017 to 2018 flu season as “moderately severe.” Now, as parents gather school supplies and backpacks, many are also looking to make sure their children are up to date on their vaccines ahead of the new school year.

“The recommended vaccines differ with the age of the child returning to school,” Dr. Mobeen Rathore, a spokesperson for American Academy of Pediatrics, tells PEOPLE.

“Vaccines are given at certain ages to provide maximum protective benefit to children before they become at risk for the specific vaccine-preventable diseases,” says Dr. Rathore, who is also the associate Department of Pediatrics chair at the University of Florida.

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“Delaying the vaccines will place the child and those children around them at unnecessary risk for vaccine-preventable diseases. These vaccines have been studied for specific ages and have been found to be safe and effective,” Dr. Rathore adds.

Dr. Rathore says the question of “Are vaccines safe?” is the top annual inquiry.

“Yes, vaccines are safe and yes, your child should receive the recommended vaccines at the recommended ages. When children return to school, they come in contact with many other children so this is a good time to review vaccines with the child’s pediatricians and get them updated,” Dr. Rathore explains.

(Required vaccines and doses for school entry differ by jurisdictions however these are the vaccines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC.)

For children age 5: Hepatitis A (2 doses) & B (3 doses), rotavirus (2 or 3 doses depending on which vaccine is used), inactivated polio virus (3 doses at least, 4th dose is given 4 to 6 years of age), diphtheria, tetanus, & acellular pertussis (4 doses at least 5th dose is given 4 to 6 years of age), haemophilus influenzae type B (3 or 4 doses depending on the vaccine), 13 valent Pneumococcal conjugate (3 doses), measles, mumps and rubella (1 dose at least, 2nd dose is given 4 to 6 years of age), and varicella (chickenpox; 1 dose at least, 2nd dose is given 4 to 6 years of age).

Children Vaccinations in Colorado
AURORA, CO - February 10: The annual flu vaccine is drawn from the vile into the needle Saturday, February 7, 2015 at Crawford Kids Clinic in Aurora, Colorado. Luz Barajas and Carlos Cholcio brought their children, Carlos and Menserrat into the clinic for their annual flu shot. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

For children 11 years and older: Meningococcal conjugate, diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis, and human papillomavirus vaccine (starting at 9 years of age).

The influenza vaccine is recommended annually for all eligible children starting at 6 months of age.

According to the CDC, all 51 states, including the District of Columbia, have established vaccination requirements for public school children and daycare facilities. (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota’s state laws are unclear about private school requirements.)

California and Michigan require that all school-age children receive vaccines such as polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, varicella and meningococcal before they allow entry into all public and non-public schools.

And each state has varying exemption processes based on religious and philosophical beliefs.

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Arizona, Delaware, Minnesota and Virginia require parents to prepare an affidavit of religious belief, which includes a statement that “their belief is not a political, sociological or philosophical view of a merely personal moral code,” according to the CDC. Similarly, Iowa and New Jersey laws prohibit “philosophical, scientific, moral, personal, or medical opposition to immunizations.”

In Arkansas, Georgia, North Dakota and Wyoming, children who have not been immunized may be “excluded” or “removed” from school for a period of time in the event of an epidemic. However, for children in Hawaii, if there is dangers of an epidemic, “no exemption from immunization against the disease shall be recognized.”

Kentucky law allows for religious exemptions “provided that in the event of an epidemic, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services may require the immunization of all persons within the area of epidemic against the disease responsible.”

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