GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan mother is turning her grief into a message after a disease thought by many to be a thing of the past claimed her baby’s life.
In 2017, only 56 percent of Michigan toddlers were up to date on all their recommended vaccinations.
“She had this little bassinet and it had three little bears at the top that would spin in a circle and she would look up at them and squeal out with glee and I always say now that I feel like I got to hold an angel,” said Veronica McNally.
Adored by her two big brothers, little Francesca died when she was only 3 months old.
Her mother is on a mission to make sure other families are aware that her baby died from a vaccine-preventable disease.
“People don’t understand these diseases are circulating, and they are severe and oftentimes have very severe circumstances if a child gets them,” said McNally.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is what claimed Francesca’s life.
At 3 months old, she wasn’t old enough to have completed the three-shot regimen that would have protected her.
“When we know who gave the baby pertussis, three-quarters of the time it’s either parents, siblings or grandparents,” said Dr. Dan McGee from Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “So, those people need to be protected from pertussis, so they don’t give it to the unprotected child.”
Veronica wants new parents to know that people around the baby choose to not vaccinate or don’t keep up on their vaccinations put the child at risk.
“In particular when you’re talking about having infants at home, you want to know if the people there have been vaccinated against whooping cough and influenza,” said McNally.
Like the flu, whooping cough is highly contagious. Babies’ lungs aren’t developed enough to fight off the bacterial infection.
McGee said parents need to stick to the one and only tested vaccination schedule for their children. It’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
He also said expectant mothers and others who are going to be around an infant need to get the one-step Tdap vaccine.
“The recommendations is fairly recent to give it to moms and now the recommendation is to give it to every mom with every pregnancy,” said McGee.
She was recently named the CDC’s 2018 Child Immunization Champion for Michigan.