Whether you’re for vaccines or against them (à la Jenny McCarthy), you’ll be able to find plenty of data to back you up your position.

That’s not good enough for Shannon Duffy, however. She’s one mom who’s on a mission to spread the word of pro-vaccination. Her daughter, Abby Peterson, was almost six years old in 2001 when she got chicken pox and subsequently died of pneumonia.


Doctors say she was simply too small and too young to be able to battle two such serious infections at once. Both diseases are preventable if the person has been vaccinated.

However, Duffy claims that her pediatrician warned against vaccinations. The mother and daughter lived in a small town in rural Minnesota, and Duffy didn’t think twice about taking the advice of Abby’s doctor.

She says, “I asked for them (vaccinations) and my doctor talked me out of it. He said vaccines were too new and recommended I expose my children to diseases instead because he felt they could build up their immunity naturally.” Now of course she wishes she had sought a second opinion.

A mother’s mission

It wasn’t revealed until post-autopsy that Abby was actually born with no spleen, which is a crucial part of the body’s immune system. She didn’t stand much of a chance without vaccinations, says Duffy.

Germs and viruses are tough enough to combat as it is, but without a spleen Abby was even more vulnerable. Over the past 12 years, Duffy has had one goal: To pass a law that requires childhood immunization throughout the state of Minnesota. She’s spoken to the legislature and tried to work with the anti-vaccination parents.

She’s perhaps the best person to bridge the gap between the two camps, having been on the opposite side herself. Understanding that the fear of autism and other alleged vaccination side effects make parents wary, she says, “Not vaccinating is not taking full medical care of your child.”

Duffy is certain that had her daughter been vaccinated, she’d be alive today.

Taking responsibility

Just like a proper parent wouldn’t deny his or her child a warm home in the winter, or bar a kid from getting a good education, Duffy sees vaccinations in the same positive light. Fortunately for her mission, the majority of health-care facilities in her state agree with Duffy.

Nationally, major organizations and agencies such as the US Centers for Disease Control have encouraged vaccinations for years. However, opinions remain strong on both sides of the controversy. Duffy still has a long road ahead of her.


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