“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

“Life’s unfairness is not irrevocable; we can help balance the scales for others, if not always for ourselves.” –Hubert Humphrey


On February 4th, 2000, Holly Stavola, our daughter, and a sibling, a grandchild, and a niece died tragically and unnecessarily from encephalopathy due to her 2nd MMR vaccination. Holly was a completely healthy, bright, kind and beautiful 5 year old child. The day she received her vaccinations at her 5 year well check-up Holly was not sick nor immunocompromised in any way. She received the MMR, the oral polio (which was no longer recommended as of Jan. 2000), the DTaP, the Mantoux test, and my son received the Chickenpox Vaccine (he was 9 years old). 

She became very ill a week following the shots, which is within the expected time period, a vaccine table injury of encephalopathy. Encephalopathy is one of the potential reactions of the MMR as stated in the Merck Package Insert and the Vaccine Injury Table of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It can occur between 5-15 days after the vaccine.

She suffered 65 hours before becoming brain dead. Her first symptoms were a 107 degree fever and seizure that happened in our house before calling 911. In the first hospital we were screaming for help; they did a spinal tap to check for meningitis, and with increasing brain inflammation this should not have been done. She was shivering because hypothermia set in due to them trying to cool down her 107/108 fever.

The United States Federal Court of Claims

The doctors eliminated possible infectious, bacterial and viral diseases and concluded that all her symptoms were due to encephalopathy, a vaccine table injury.  The Federal government conceded that Holly’s death was compensable due to a vaccine.

Medical Help Fell Short

Her pediatrician and their office failed us immensely by not informing us of the risks, not attributing her symptoms to a possible reaction the day it began, and not showing up at either hospital. She was at two local Monmouth County hospitals that were not capable of helping Holly. I finally, at the second hospital thought to inform them of the fact that she had vaccinations the week prior. That is when the hospital and pediatrician finally concluded the diagnosis that was reported to VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) by Holly’s pediatrician.

Become Aware of the Risks

One needs to become knowledgeable and informed before making a decision to vaccinate.  When our daughter became severely sick, we, the EMS and the hospital medical people were unable to figure out what was happening until I finally brought up vaccinations at the hospital. It did not occur to me that a vaccination could cause such a reaction as I was not informed of vaccination risks in the year that Holly died.  Review the Vaccine Information Statements which are available from the Center for Disease Control’s website and Federal Law that you are to receive these statements. (but no doctor is held accountable if no VIS is given by him/her to the parent) “Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) are information sheets produced by the CDC that explain both the benefits and risks of a vaccine to vaccine recipients. Federal law requires that healthcare staff provide a VIS to a patient, parent, or legal representative before each dose of certain vaccines.”  However, the VIS does not inform you all of the possible risks. Research the topic for yourself.

I served on the Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a parent of a vaccine injured child. We were compensated by the government for death. My family and I hope that Holly’s story will make a difference and help you realize that you must be aware of the risks of vaccinations for your child just as you make yourself aware of the risks of any medical procedure. We, unfortunately, were not educated in the area of vaccinations and because of this we were not able to help the medical people help our daughter Holly.  The reason we would like to tell Holly’s story is because we think other parents, as well as doctors, should know the truth and become more educated about vaccination risks.

Holly’s Law

If you would like to read the law you can find it on the NJ State Legislature website www.njleg.state.nj.us/ by using the 2002-2003 legislative session and bill numbers S1891 and A2889.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to shed light on an important issue. However, our daughter’s death was not in vain now because we have told many people Holly’s story and there is now a “Holly’s Law” in the state of New Jersey. Holly’s suffering was painful to watch, but at least now we know there have been lives saves from Holly’s story.

We will be forever grateful to everyone that helped us along the way to get our bill through the legislative process.

On January 14, 2004, Governor James McGreevey signed the bill into law, Holly’s law.  It was 4 days before Holly’s birthday anniversary so this made it even more special.  I felt that this joyous, but bittersweet event was God helping to bring good from tragedy, as throughout the process I often repeated one of my favorite scripture verses at the time; Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Of course, without God and friends, family and legislators this would not be a law today. If something good comes from such a horrible tragedy, the pain we have all endured, including my dear Holly, will not have been in vain and will continue to not be in vain.

THANK YOU to the following primary sponsors:  Senator John Bennett,  Senator Joan Quigley, Senator Robert Singer, and Senator Joseph Azzolina (deceased) and to the former Governor James McGreevey!!

The bill S1891/A2889 was unanimously released from both the Senate and Assembly Health Committees. It passed the Senate 40-0 on May 29, 2003 and it passed the Assembly 74-0 on January 12, 2004.

Thank you to the following New Jersey State Legislators who signed on as our co-sponsors:

  • Andrew R. Ciesla
  • Joseph M. Kyrillos
  • Joseph A. Palaia
  • Joseph F. Vitale
  • Michael J. Arnone
  • Christopher Bateman
  • Patrick J. Diegnan
  • Gary L. Guear
  • John S. Wisniewski
  • Jeff Van Drew
  • Peter C. Eagler
  • Linda Stender
  • Clare M. Farragher
  • Joseph V. Egan
  • Gordon M. Johnson
  • Upendra J. Chivukula
  • Nilsa Cruz-Perez
  • John F. McKeon
  • Linda R. Greenstein
  • Dr. Eric Munoz

If you have comments or questions please feel free to contact me by e-mail. I would love to hear from the parents that utilize the antibody blood titer test. I would be interested to know if the child’s physician provided the information.

Print this Pamphlet about Holly’s Law (the Anti-Body Blood Titer Test) from the New Jersey Health and Senior Services Department website.  The information found in the pamphlet is available to every health care provider in the state of NJ who administers the MMR vaccine and should be given to parents whose children are between the ages of 4 and 6.  If the information is not provided by your physician, you should inquire about this test prior to giving your child the second MMR. If your child has a positive titer level because of the first MMR, you may present the titer levels to the school.  Do you believe in giving your child unnecessary medication?  If not, then before vaccinating, educate yourselves by utilizing many different sources, your physician, other parents who are vaccine knowledgeable and the National Vaccine Information Center Website.

A Song for Holly

And please join us in celebrating Holly’s life with this video made by her sister. May Holly’s soul rest in peace. Til we meet again, I miss you very much, I love you and I am sorry.

5 Year Old New Jersey Girl Died from the MMR Vaccine, Holly’s Law Created