I have to admit, I haven’t always been “pro-vaccination”. I was never “anti-vax” either. What I was was scared.
When my son was born I actually lived in what at a time was a bit of an “anti-vax” pocket. So a lot of the parents around me were choosing not to vaccinate, or they were delaying or selectively vaccinating their babies.
This was enough to at least plant a seed of doubt for me. I didn’t really believe the conspiracy theories that vaccinations are risky and that our own government is trying to hide that from us. But I also didn’t want to make a choice that could hurt my baby.
And at the time I felt that by not making a decision I wasn’t doing anything.
Which is of course not true. While my reasons might have been different to the passionately anti-vaccination parents around me, I was still not vaccinating my son. That was still the choice I was making, whether I was making it directly, or just being scared into inaction.
I did eventually realise that I needed to make a decision. And the risks and consequences of not vaccinating were far too high compared to the “what if” something goes wrong.
So my son was vaccinated and all caught up with the childhood immunisation schedule by the time he turned 1 year old.
Immunisation isn’t just for infants
While there seems like there is a lot more focus on those early childhood vaccinations, I don’t feel like there is as much conversation about the importance of adults – especially new and expecting parents – getting vaccinated.
But these are really important conversations to be having. Because getting vaccinating yourself can help protect your baby as well.
A Cold vs Influenza
- In Australia up to 3500 people die every year from Influenza.
- In 2009 5% of influenza related deaths were pregnant women – despite pregnant women only representing 1% of the population.
- Studies show that the influenza vaccination during pregnancy is associated with a 20% reduction of the risk of stillbirths.
These statistics are both scary and also absolutely incredible. Influenza vaccination being associated with a 20% reduction of stillbirths is huge! That is not a small number of lives saved. That is a significant reduction of risk.
And it important to remember that “a cold” and “the flu” are not the same thing. Not at all. If you’ve had the influenza before you probably understand why it is so annoying when someone who seems to be barely sick at all says “Ugh, I have the flu”. No. You have a cold. Colds suck.
But influenza is horrible at best, and deadly at worst.
I’ve only had influenza once. Once was enough. I never want to do that again. It was bad – as sick as I’ve ever been in my life – bad, but for me it wasn’t life threatening. I was an adult, I wasn’t pregnant at the time, I very fortunately didn’t pass on it to my toddler. But if I had been pregnant, or there was an infant in the household, it could have been a lot worse.
Influenza is serious and getting vaccinated against it every season is seriously important.
- Infants under 6 months are at the greatest risk from serious illness and death from whooping cough.
- Children under 12 months with whooping cough have a 50% hospitalisation rate and a 0.5% mortality rate.
- Whooping cough is extremely contagious. If you have whooping cough there is an 80% chance you will pass it on to other members of your household.
Because whooping cough is SO very contagious and newborn babies are the most vulnerable, it’s important that people who are coming into close contact with your new baby are up to date with their whooping cough vaccination. Keeping in mind that the effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine fades over time so you need to be vaccinated each and every pregnancy from 28 weeks onward to help protect your baby.
Talk to your health care providers
Please don’t just take my word for it. This is a conversation that pregnant women need to be having with their GP, midwife and/or obstetrician. Pregnant women are able to get a free whooping cough and influenza vaccinations under the National Immunisation Program. So if you’re currently pregnant, and you have not already talked to your health care provider about these vaccinations, definitely bring it up at your next appointment. These are a potentially life saving conversations for both yourself and your unborn baby.
Friends and Family
Newborn babies cannot be fully vaccinated against Whooping Cough or Influenza, so it’s important that anyone coming into close contact with your newborn baby, including your baby’s older siblings, are up to date on their vaccinations – especially for whooping cough and influenza.
Your friends and family may also be eligible for a free influenza vaccine under the National Immunisation Program if they have certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, impaired immunity and more. Also adults aged 65 and older are eligible for a free influenza vaccine.
Alternatively if you’re located in Victoria, they could attend a free influenza vaccine day in Melbourne:
Vaccination Cafe at Melbourne Town Hall
Date: Friday 10th May 2019
Place: Swanston Room Melbourne Town Hall
90-130 Swanston St