The thorny issue of needles

EB blogger Joh Baker-Dowdell
EB blogger Joh Baker-Dowdell 

Almost 10 weeks has already flown by since my second son, Ethan, was born, and just over a week ago he had his first of many immunisations.  I was dreading the event because our eldest son, Noah, gave me a horrible look I'll never forget when he had his first jabs.

Ethan was exactly two months old on the day of his vaccination and it couldn't have come sooner.

My worry about my son being in pain for a short time is nothing compared with how I would feel if I was sitting with him in hospital as his tiny body fought for breath. We live on the NSW Central Coast, an area which is currently experiencing an outbreak of whooping cough so bad I've heard of people quarantining themselves and their children so there is no chance of infection. Our local newspaper, the Central Coast Express Advocate, reported there had been 246 cases of whooping cough in this region in January and February this year, compared with 397 in all of 2008.

Now Ethan has had his first vaccination he at least has some protection against whooping cough. Noah has already been vaccinated so that just leaves my husband and I to get our booster shots. My parents are also planning to ask for the booster shots as they spend so much time with our children. There is an information sheet on whooping cough on the NSW Government website:

When I was pregnant with Noah we attended ante-natal classes with a couple who were planning on not having their child vaccinated. While I respect their decision not to vaccinate, I have wondered many times over the past few weeks if they had changed their minds, particularly in light of the outbreak in the area we live. If their child, who would be three, did contract whooping cough would other children have been put at risk as a result?

I lived in England at the time many parents refused the triple MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination. Andrew Wakefield published a study in 1998 reporting 12 children had developed autism and bowel symptoms soon after their MMR needle. Instead these parents paid for three separate needles for their children, or some refused to vaccinate at all and vaccination rates in the UK declined. Several studies since then have not found a link between the vaccine and autism, and in 2004 10 of Dr Wakefield's 12 co-authors retracted their statements.

The way I look at vaccination is: there is a tiny risk of an adverse reaction, compared to a much, much bigger risk of my children contracting a host of diseases if I had chosen not to vaccinate them. I'm willing to take the smaller risk.

As for how Ethan fared with his vaccination: he lapped up the syringe of rotavirus vaccine and screamed very loudly for both needles. I must have looked worse though, as the midwife spent more time comforting me than my baby. The anticipation of his pain got the better of me and I cried. Next time I must take some moral support!

What are your views on vaccination and how did you and your child/ren cope when they were jabbed? Comment on Joh's blog here.