This year Immunisation Week from April 23-29 is all about protecting your child by getting them immunised on time.
Why is that important? Right now New Zealand has a whooping cough outbreak that has affected hundreds of babies, children and adults. Babies who get whooping cough struggle to breathe and many need to be hospitalised.
Babies aren’t protected until they have had their first three immunisation visits on time at six weeks, three and five months.
If you’re having trouble getting to an appointment or you have questions, talk to your doctor, practice nurse, or Plunket nurse – they can help.
By immunising your child, you’re also helping to protect your family and our community because the more people who are immunised, the lower the risk of disease outbreaks.
Older generations remember living through epidemics of diseases like polio. Over the last two years we have had a reminder with outbreaks of measles, and now whooping cough.
Hamilton mum Ally Edwards-Lasenby’s son Cameron caught measles last year. Driving across Hamilton to Waikato Hospital with her seriously ill teenage son was the most frightening car trip of her life.
Within days of becoming unwell, Cameron had developed a full body rash, had stopped eating and drinking and was so sick medical staff struggled to give him intravenous fluids.
“I saw my big 13 ½ year old, who’s taller than me, slowly disintegrating before my eyes and I wasn’t able to do anything. I thought ‘This happens to other people – not my baby’. I just didn’t realise measles could do that,” Ally says.
Measles can be prevented – once fully immunised with two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, more than 95 percent of people are protected. Cameron wasn’t immunised against measles as a baby but has now had the MMR vaccine. The vaccine will give him protection against mumps and rubella, in addition to the immunity to measles he gained from having had the disease.
Ally decided against having Cameron immunised for measles, mumps and rubella when he was a baby because at the time, she was concerned about claims the vaccine was linked to autism. The research behind those claims has since been thoroughly discredited.
“I made an informed decision based on the information I had at the time but the research has proven to be invalid. I should have gone back to check it but I never followed up,” Ally says.
“By sharing our experience with people I hope I can create an awareness of the importance of immunisation. I wouldn’t hesitate given what we have been through.”
Immunisation Week is a World Health Organization event. In New Zealand we celebrate it with community events and media activities to get people talking about immunisation.
Talk to your doctor or practice nurse today. You can also go to www.health.govt.nz or call 0800 IMMUNE.