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Parents put spotlight on anti-vaxxers following 4-week old’s whooping cough death

The 4-week-old baby of Perth parents, Catherine and Greg Hughes, has died following his fight with whooping cough, also known as pertussis.

While their son, Riley, was too young to be vaccinated against whooping cough (children must be at least 2 months old to receive the vaccine) his father, Greg, brought attention to the deadly disease and the vulnerability of children who aren’t vaccinated, reminding anti-vaxxer parents that their choices have consequences.

“If you’re anti-immunisation/anti-logic/anti-duty of care to your society as a whole, then feel free to take a look at this picture of my son in hospital right now at 4 weeks old with whooping cough,” Hughes published along with a photo of his son while still fighting whooping cough. “Then come and tell me how you think immunisation is a bad thing.”

Riley John Hughes died at Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth on Tuesday. Since then, Greg and Catherine have set up a memorial Facebook page to make sure their child hasn’t died “in vain” by educating parents and the general public about vaccinations and whooping cough.

“We are devastated to let everyone know our gorgeous sweet month-old son Riley John Hughes lost his battle with whooping cough at Princess Margaret Hospital earlier today,” Catherine wrote on the page called Light for Riley.

“He passed away peacefully in our arms after a tough fight. The staff at PMH were amazing and did everything they could to save his little life but the whooping cough was too severe.”

But given baby Riley was too young to receive an immunisation, what can we learn from his death and stop this from happening again?

  • Close family members should receive whooping cough booster shots.
  • Mum can be immunised during pregnancy or right after birth.
  • Babies too young to receive immunisations should be limited to the amount of people they are in contact with.
  • The general public, children, teenagers and adults are encouraged to get their immunisations and booster shots up to date to avoid the spread to those who cannot be vaccinated.

Family health organisations and the general public have vowed on the Light for Riley Facebook page to spread the word about the importance of immunisation.

“We have sent a strong message to the families of Brisbane to get vaccinated — to stop the ignorance. My heart and my thoughts are with you and your family,” Brisbane Kids said.

Anne Bush vowed to encourage those around her to get booster shots. “Went and got the script for it today, now I shall be making the appointment for the jab… challenging 1000 ppl to do the same. Would like to see everyone get it done but I shall start here and hope others pass it on,” she said.

While deaths from whooping cough are uncommon — there have been five in the last 10 years in Western Australia — anything should be done to avoid diseases like these taking life from the most vulnerable.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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