The One Where I Get Off The Fence To Discuss Immunisation | Life Love and Hiccups: The One Where I Get Off The Fence To Discuss Immunisation
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Thursday 26 September 2013

The One Where I Get Off The Fence To Discuss Immunisation

Pin It It is common knowledge that I have a massive dent in my bum as a result of years of sitting on the fence. I am not one to chase controversy or get on my high horse and start dictating how one should live their life, raise their children and yada yada yada. 

But this is one time that I am getting down from my fence and asking you to at least consider the following message I am giving you today.


A couple of weeks ago I was incredibly privileged to attend the studios of one of the world's most respected photographers - Anne Geddes, and I was even more privileged to watch her in action as she took photos of THE most beautiful little girl - Bernadette.

Bernadette is not your average little 6 year old, this little girl is the epitome of inspiration and survival because this little angel survived one of the most deadly diseases - Meningococcal disease.

Sadly Bernadette's battle was not won without the tragic loss of her legs and some fingers after her parents Mary and Danilo were forced to make the heart aching decision to amputate them in order to save her life.

Of course it was a no brainer, and today as they watch Bernadette and her three brothers play together, they are eternally grateful to the medical teams that saved their little girl's life.

Having nearly lost my own son to bacterial meningitis, this is a cause very close to my heart.

The incredibly talented Anne Geddes, together with patient support groups from around the world, are leading a global awareness campaign aimed at educating parents about the threat of meningococcal disease.

Anne is travelling to 6 countries to photograph and celebrate survivors of this disease and honour those who tragically lost their lives. 

You can watch this clip from The Project to learn more about Anne's involvement in this campaign and to see more of precious little Bernadette's survival story.

Meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection that can cause death within hours if it is not recognised early and treated straight away. The disease can appear as meningococcal septicemia (blood poisoning), meningococcal meningitis ... or both.

There are 5 main groups of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease - A, B, C, W and Y, however in most developed countries like Australia, it is B and C that are the main cause of the disease. 

The goods news is that since the introduction of a vaccination against C into the National Immunisation program, we have seen a significant decline in C as the cause of disease from 162 cases in 2002 to 9 cases in 2011.

Meningococcal B now accounts for 89 percent of meningococcal disease among 0 -19 year olds in Australia, but there is more good news in that in August 2013 the TGA approved a new vaccine that provides immunisation against strain B. The vaccine is not yet available for supply, but its coming, so talk to your GP and they will keep you updated on it's progress.

It is estimated that about 10% of the population can carry meningococcus in their throat and / or nose at any one time and show no symptoms. It is transmitted to another by respiratory droplets and is spread by prolonged or close contact.

Now I know that immunisation can be a very controversial subject and there is a fear among some that the vaccinations themselves could be the cause of something awful. 

I took the opportuntity to raise these fears with Professor Robert Booy - the head of Clinical Research at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.

I asked him about the concern I most frequently hear from those who are anti immunisation, the fear that the MMR immunisation may be linked to Autism. 

Professor Booy informed me that this fear initially came from a Doctor in the UK who released this theory in 1998. The theory was disproved within a year and following a systematic review up until 2004 where hundreds of thousands of valuable research hours were spent on researching any potential link, the original theory was withdrawn. 

The Doctor responsible for releasing the initial report was found to be fraudulent and unethical and has since been struck off the Medical Register.

Unfortunately the damage was done. A fear was created and still remains with some today.

As I mentioned earlier, my family have been in the position ourselves of very nearly losing a child to bacterial meningitis. 

At age one our oldest son Kai fell victim to this insidious bacteria, and although he was one of the lucky ones and survived, he now lives with a compromised immune system. We rely on the wider community to be vaccinated to protect him from the diseases he does not have acceptable levels of immunity against. 

This is known as Herd Immunity and it is a form of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population (or herd) provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity. When a high percentage of the population is protected through vaccination against a virus or bacteria, it makes it difficult for a disease to spread because there are so few susceptible people left to infect.

One conversation with a Professor does by NO means make me an expert, so I would suggest that if you have concerns or questions about immunisation, please discuss them with someone who is educated to answer them or you can visit Professor Booy's Chain of Protection website for more information.
Most importantly,  you need to know the symptoms of Meningococcal disease which can include;
Information source
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If you see any of these symptoms in your child or yourself - seek help immediately. 

Although Meningoccocal disease is quite rare, peak season has arrived, so we cannot afford to be complacent. 

Trust your gut instinct and insist upon an urgent blood test, and don't be afraid to ask the Question of the Dr "Can you rule out Meningococcal"? 

Rest assured they will not risk letting you leave until they can safely rule it out. Doctors are now being trained to listen to and trust a parents instinct, and above all else it is far better to be overly cautious than live with what could be the greatest regret of your life.

Further information about Meningococcal disease and prevention can be found at Meningoccal Australia's website here.

I understand that this post may encourage discussion in the comments section and it is a subject that can entice an emotional response. I am not going to switch off comments on this post, but I do ask that if you wish to discuss or express an opinion on immunisation, please do so respectfully and be considerate of each other, their beliefs and their experiences. Thank you

I was not paid to write this post or for my opinion on the matter. It is a subject I feel very strongly about and a message I feel a responsibility as a parent of my own survivor, to share.