PARENTS of a 13-month-old boy have told of being "unduly influenced" by anti-vaccine misinformation on social media, after their son was admitted to intensive care at University Hospital Galway (UHG) with a preventable illness.
The unnamed mum and dad have permitted doctors to share details of their case to highlight the importance of vaccinations and help to provide a more balanced argument on social media, which can often be dominated by anti-vaxx material.
They said their decision not to vaccinate their baby had largely been influenced by "social media reports of a potential link between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorder".
That was despite both parents being "well informed" about vaccine-preventable diseases and "aware" of the various diseases their non-immunised child was more susceptible to.
Dr Peter Tormey and Dr Edina Moylett from UHG wrote about the case in the online monthly report of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) Epi-Insight, saying that it "highlights the potential for a vaccine-preventable disease to cause acute, life-threatening illness in an unvaccinated child".
The boy – who was "a previously well child without significant past medical history, not on any medications" – presented to the Emergency Department (ED) at UHG "in significant respiratory distress", the doctors said.
He was diagnosed with a non-typable strain of the H. influenzae flu after doctors found his "oxygen saturations were 78% on arrival and the child was very pale with obvious central cyanosis; there was clinical evidence of significant respiratory distress".
Following this diagnosis, the boy was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for three days.
Thankfully, he made a full recovery after a 10-day course of the antibiotic Ceftriaxone via an IV drip.
Dr Tormey and Dr Moylett said the case highlighted the negative effect social media can have on vaccine uptake rates.
"The challenge for healthcare professionals and public health organisations is to keep up with the vast amounts of misinformation surrounding vaccines with more anti-vaccine blogs, tweets and Facebook posts being added daily," they concluded.
"This is time-consuming and demands a lot of resources in an ever-changing digital landscape.
"It is important that healthcare professionals, public health organisations, parents and the mainstream and social media seek to provide and disseminate balanced and scientific information regarding vaccines, particularly on social media, where an anti-vaccination sentiment can often prevail."