A mother who says her baby is hospitalized with whooping cough in Victoria is warning parents who don't vaccinate their children that there can be consequences for other kids.
Annie Mae Braiden says her 10-week-old daughter has been in the pediatric intensive care unit at Victoria General Hospital for more than a month after contracting the disease.
"What you do with your kids is your choice, but do not tell me that not vaccinating your kids isn't hurting anyone but your own kids," Braiden wrote in a Facebook post that had been shared nearly 21,000 times by Tuesday.
"Isabelle is proof that it harms the other little babes who aren't old enough to get their vaccines yet."
Braiden told her story and posted photos of the tiny girl with tubes taped to her face in an emotional Facebook entry on Friday. She expects her child could be hospitalized for another two months.
Braiden, who declined an interview, said in her post that Isabelle was on a ventilator for three weeks. The girl has had to learn to eat again, and has endured withdrawals from morphine and sedatives, she wrote.
On one occasion, the mother watched a nurse pick up Isabelle and run down a hall to the intensive care unit because it appeared the girl might die, she wrote.
"It never crossed my mind to not vaccinate. I want to protect my children and other children," Braiden said.
"Please vaccinate your kids, it's not fair that my little girl is in the (hospital) coughing and not being able to breath from a disease that shouldn't be around in this day and age."
Dr. Jeff Bishop, a pediatrician who is treating Isabelle at Victoria General Hospital, said whooping cough is incredibly infectious and spreads easily through contact with anyone who is inadequately vaccinated.
He said that anecdotally, he has noticed over the past year the hospital has treated more children with whooping cough than usual. A small number of children have died during the past five years, he added.
"It's a hard topic. It does bring up such emotions," said Bishop, who could not speak about Isabelle's case directly for privacy reasons.
He said immunization has been studied extensively and the research concludes that the benefits of vaccinations far outweighs the risks.
"These are diseases that kill children and we're lucky that in Canada we see them very rarely. But we're seeing them come back. We're seeing measles, we're seeing babies die from whooping cough where previously we weren't."
Bishop said the current available vaccine provides about 80 per cent coverage, but that still means 20 per cent of people with a full course are susceptible.
He said there was a change to the vaccine in 1997 that made it much safer, but "possibly less effective" at providing long-term coverage. He also noted there is a "fairly low rate" of complete vaccination in B.C. and on Vancouver Island.