Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tetanus Vaccine Injury

We have talked a lot about the risk versus benefit of getting our kids vaccinated on this blog. I recently interviewed a local woman who won a vaccine injury lawsuit. I also talked to a doctor about tetanus. I thought you might be interested!

Here's the story we ran on HOI:

When is the last time you got a tetanus shot? Most people don't remember. So when a local grade school teacher was asked to get an updated tetanus shot, she did so without hesitation. But now she says it's one of the biggest mistakes she has ever made.

In an HOI 19 News Fact Finder report, we looked at your chances of getting a debilitating disease from the vaccination. Beth Jones is no longer bitter about what happened to her five years ago, she has accepted her body will never be the same. She said, "The pain was just unbearable. and i couldn't hardly breath because it hurt my chest to move it to take a breath. It's killing me. I was actually writhing on the floor in tears. This is hurting so bad I can't stand this."

Beth got a tetanus shot in 2003 and that week started getting symptoms of Bracheal Neuritis--the nerves in her shoulder where she got the shot were so inflamed they were dying. Beth said, "I couldn't lift my arm to the steering wheel of my car. I couldn't lift it past my trunk. I literally had to lift up my hand."

Beth had to quit her job as a teacher and couldn't take care of her two kids. She suffered for years, spent thousands of dollars seeing doctors all over the country and still had little relief.

Beth said, "Everything changes. Your hobby's change. You can't do the things you want to do anymore. You lose your career. It's all gone in a heartbeat."

Beth has had four surgeries now. She says she's running at around 50%. The good news-a federal judge ruled in her favor. She will get more than half a million dollars. Is that fair?

Beth said, "Not when both arms are injured for life and I will be in pain for the rest of my life.There's no cure for this." So we wanted to know what are your chances of having a severe side effect from a tetanus vaccine?

Dr. Rogers from Methodist Medical Center said "Brachial Neuritis is known to be a serious adverse effect from a tetanus shot. but to put it into context it is literally one in millions that it happens to, but it does happen."

So what is tetanus? Is it really that big of a deal? Dr. Rogers said, "It's just a horrible disease." That's where the term lock jaw comes from. You start to develop muscle spasms in the face and the jaw muscle and then it progresses downward. It starts to affect the other parts, you lose the ability to eat, to breath, go into a coma."

20% of people who get tetanus die from the bacteria, which is found in common places like soil-- and on rusty metal. Dr. Rogers said "Actually it isn't caused by rust, but metal is a really good medium for the spores to stay. And the spores they can hang out for years." Dr. Rogers says for most people the benefit of getting a tetanus shot every ten years far outweighs the risk of having a severe side effect.

In Beth's case, she wonders if she had an unknown medical problem that may have put her at higher risk, something that would have been her red flag to say no to this immunization. People with weak immune systems and those who are allergic to components of the vaccine are typically more at risk for side effects.

I have no idea when I last got a tetanus shot. You are supposed to get one every 10 years. I don't know if I would ever be that vigilant. However, if I got a cut or an infection from something that was old and dirty, I would certainly think about getting one. I am glad to know the side effects and to have met Beth. She has had a really rough time and I don't blame her for being angry. She says this incident has changed her feelings about routine immunizations. She says her kids were given most of the routine childhood vaccinations, but if she could do it all over again she would be more picky about which ones they got.

What are your thoughts on vaccine injuries?

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

Methodist Medical Center's new online healthcare program, MyMethodist eHealth, is a proud sponsor of this blog post. MyMethodist eHealth is the secure link to your doctor's office that lets you request appointments, order prescription refills, update your personal health record, and more. Sign up for MyMethodist eHealth here.


dayoub said...

Although not my area of expertise, I can quote the CDC here and put things in perspective.

Tetanus is a horrible disease but RARE. Longitudinal data looking at tetanus rates in military showed dramatic declines from the 1800's to the early 1900s without the benefit of vaccination, but by better wound care. It is written in numerous cites that it requires a deep wound to acquire tetanus, from a source contaminated with soil or feces. Surface scrapes just don't carry the same risk.

According to the CDC between 1990 and 1998, there were 36 to 64 cases of tetanus, about 15% die, or between 1 and 11 of those cases annually.

How rare is this?
Well, it is about 8 times more likely to be struck by lightening and die then to die of tetanus, again, according to the CDC's own data. (82 lightening deaths per year).

A recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (lead researcher Kozyrskyj) is discussed by Mark Blaxill at

The study showed that delaying the DTP vaccine by as little as 2 months resulted in asthma rates reduced by over 50%! (13.8% vs 5.9%)

This suggests that the DTP vaccine containing the tetanus component causes asthma.

How many asthma related deaths are there?
About 11 deaths per DAY, compared with 11 tetanus deaths per year. If just delaying the DTP vaccine reduces asthma cases and thus death by over 50%, what would skipping the DTP vaccine do? At a minimum 50% of asthma and thus daily deaths could be eliminated, or at least 5 deaths per day, or over 2000 lives saved per year.

SO there you have a common sense risk benefit assessment. The risk of death from tetanus (11 per year) vs risk of, among other things, asthma which kills 11 PER DAY in the USA.

Tom - Goosiecards said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom - Goosiecards said...

One of the feelings from talking with parents at the Autism walks here in NJ is they wish they never did so many shots so fast. There is a connection between the combination of today’s vaccinations, timeframe, and make up of each child. There are many moms’ that have written advocating slowing the shot schedule down. I would take caution if I was a new mom and make sure that I have read everything from both sides of the argument to make the best decision for my child.

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