#VaccineHero

We asked people to tell us why they encourage people to get vaccinated. 

Meet some of our “vaccine heroes”

 

Dr Lucy Jessop, Director National Immunisation Office

As a current public health doctor, ex-paediatrician and a mother I believe that vaccines are the best gift we can give our children and even better the health service gives them to us for free, something we may take for granted but people in many other countries aren’t so fortunate. If my sons first birthday hadn’t been on a Sunday he would have had his 12 month vaccines on that day, because you never know when they will be exposed to infections so it is really important to get them vaccinated as soon as they are due for them.

I also firmly support breastfeeding and healthy eating, but they can’t protect your baby effectively against potentially fatal infectious diseases like vaccines can.

I still remember the anguish of young parents when their only child died aged 2 years from Hib meningitis in the hospital I was working in as a junior doctor. She had been vaccinated as a baby, but this was before it was known that a booster dose at 1 year was necessary, so her immunity had waned and she died very quickly when the disease took hold of her. Her death contributed to the introduction of a booster dose of the vaccine at 1 year, which means that Hib disease is virtually never seen now, but it could come back if immunisation rates drop.

I also remember the extreme care of a father for his son aged about 10 who had SSPE, a rare complication of measles. They were from Eastern Europe originally so probably couldn’t have accessed the vaccine for him and so he had contracted measles some years before I met them. His son was very slowly dying because SSPE causes progressive deterioration of the brain and there is no cure.

These children losing their lives to potentially preventable infectious diseases and the devastation that the death of a child leaves on the families left behind made me want to dedicate my medical career to trying to ensure vaccine rates were as high as possible so this wouldn’t happen needlessly to other families.

Dr Chantal Migone, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, National Immunisation Office

When I was a medical student our professor of medicine introduced us to one of his patients; a young woman who was dying from a rare but serious complication of measles, a condition called sub-acute sclerosing pan-encephalitis (SSPE). This young woman had measles as a young child, and years later developed SSPE, a chronic neurological condition that is almost always fatal.

I’ll always remember this young woman, she was just five years younger than me at the time, but was now confined to a wheelchair, was getting frequent seizures, and would soon die.

By introducing us to her, the professor of medicine was trying to stress to us the importance of immunisation against measles.  

We have a really good vaccine to protect against measles, the MMR vaccine. After two doses of MMR vaccine, 99% of people are protected against measles.  If 95% of our community are protected then the virus can’t spread, which means that nobody should be at risk from SSPE.

Sometimes I hear people say that natural immunity against conditions like measles is better than being vaccinated. But “natural” immunity can come at a really terrible price, as it did for this young woman. That’s why we vaccinate against measles, to prevent SSPE and other serious complications of measles, like pneumonia and encephalitis.

All vaccines

Louise

My story really starts when I wanted to become a social care worker. I needed to have all of my vaccinations up to date and also get a Hepatitis vaccination as required by my employer, I am not the best when it comes to needles so I needed my mom to support me for these visits, even though I was in my 20's!

From there my life with regular injections continued and will do; yearly Flu vaccines are a must in my line of work and I have also had two pregnancies in 2018 and 2019 for these I got my Pertussis vaccines as well as my Flu vaccine. Both of my babies have had their required vaccines as I am a firm believer that protecting them from as many preventable diseases as possible is key to their health and development just as much as a balanced diet. I have never suffered any negative side effects from any vaccination and neither have my two babies. I will continue to vaccinate myself and my children in the future as I think it would be very silly not to.

Leah

My second baby was premature. The fear I had bringing her home during a measles outbreak in North Dublin was horrendous. Knowing I could not vaccinate her for another year.

She's nearly 2 now and is brilliant. Both my daughters are up to date on the schedule, additionally, they both have their flu shot every year and chickenpox.

Being a parent I am responsible for my children, and our herd immunity.

Mama Doc in Meath

I cared for patients in ICU with vaccine-preventable disease. Stories that didn't need to happen. When I became a mother, and joined mammy groups, I saw the reality of why vaccination levels in our Irish children are now to levels that allow mumps, whooping cough, and measles outbreak.

Medical misinformation threatens to drive down vaccination uptake levels. In 2019, 16, 409 cases of vaccine-preventable diseases used up untold € in scarce HSE resources, to say nothing of the human cost. So I blog. I tweet. I educate. I attempt to provide facts and sense in an age of medical misinformation.

Catherine

In the 1940s, a child from next door died from Diphtheria.

Measles is a very debilitating disease. My children all suffered from it but thankfully, they had no lasting effects.

80 years ago people did not have access to vaccines how glad they would have been if they had. 

Pertussis vaccine in Pregnancy

Elyce

A few years ago I was working as a Junior Doctor in paediatrics and was involved in the care of several very young babies who were unwell with whooping cough. Unfortunately, some of them became seriously unwell and had long hospital stays.

Years later when I became pregnant with my first little boy, I was so happy that I could do something to protect him from whooping cough. While I was pregnant I got whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine from my GP and am happy he was protected. 

I got pregnant again in 2018 and got my pertussis and flu vaccine. It is really good knowing that taking a few minutes to get a simple vaccine will help protect my baby and me from these serious illnesses. 

MMR vaccine 

Sue

My brother was born deaf due to my mam coming into contact with a child who had measles when she was pregnant. It was totally preventable and it saddens me that people don't value vaccines and what they can prevent.

Jean

I took my son to be vaccinated during the measles outbreak of 2000. He had just reached vaccination age, our GP could not wait to see him. The 4 infant patients on his books who were not old enough to receive the vaccine all had measles. 2 of them has been hospitalised. I was glad to protect my son and glad to join the herd to protect others.

Michael

My name is Michael and my son had a liver transplant when he was a young child some years ago. Luckily he had got all the recommended vaccines before he had the transplant. But, these vaccines may no longer work because of the medicines that he has to take for the rest of his life. He can have more doses (boosters) of certain vaccines but not others which are live vaccines.

Live vaccines prevent diseases like Measles, Mumps and Rubella. These diseases can affect people of all ages but especially those in schools or colleges. Complications from these diseases are more common in people like my son. He wants to be able to go to school, meet up with his friends and join in normal everyday activities for a boy his age. He needs those around him to have the MMR vaccine to protect themselves and those at risk like himself.

“Ar scáth a chéile a maireann na daoine”. (People depend on each other).

HPV Vaccine 

Eoin

42 year old Eoin Roche from Co. Kildare talks about his experience of undergoing treatment for a HPV-related cancer – which for Eoin is now thankfully in remission. Eoin is a strong advocate for the HPV vaccine and he hopes his story will encourage parents to get their daughters and sons vaccinated.

Vida

My son received the HPV vaccine 5 years ago so that not only he but also his future partners would be protected from HPV related disease.

Prevention is always better than cure.

Laura

The Huestons

The Dalys

Eimear

The Brennans

Michelle

My name is Rachel Fitzpatrick I live in Co Roscommon with my partner and 3 children, I have 3 younger sisters and a younger brother. My mum's name was Michelle Fitzpatrick and she sadly passed away in 2010 after a battle with cervical cancer. My youngest sister Jemma was just 2 when my mum passed away.

My mums biggest fear was not her illness or dying, her biggest fear was not being able to protect my siblings and I. She was terrified my sisters and I would experience the same fate as her. She wanted to protect us from the horrible symptoms and pain she was experiencing. While undergoing treatment and attending doctor visits she found out about the HPV vaccine and how the HPV virus causes most cervical cancer.

She headed a pressure campaign in 2009 and went public with her illness to get the government to introduce the HPV vaccine. She spoke to journalists, radio stations and politicians to raise awareness of cervical cancer and the importance of the HPV vaccine.  

In 2010, Trinity College offered the vaccine to all female students at half price and then it was announced that the HPV Vaccine would be made available to all first year female students from September 2010.  This made mum so happy.

Our youngest sister Jemma started 1st year this September and will be receiving the vaccine that our mum put so much work and effort ensuring that it would be made available to her.

Jemma is already living with the consequences of cervical cancer, but with regular smears and the HPV vaccine she will be protected. 

My message to parents who children are eligible for the vaccine is to please think of my mum and Laura Brennan’s stories when you are making your decision to vaccinate.

We are so proud of our mum and her legacy which has saved thousands of lives and will save thousands more.

Flu Vaccine  

Sean

Nuala

Working in a care centre with vulnerable adults who are at risk of the flu. Increasing the staff's knowledge on the flu, the benefits, the risk to our residents and to address the misconceptions related to the flu jab.

In order to encourage my staff, I am the first to get the flu jab and we support our staff to get the jab locally in working hours if they wish and it is paid for. We have in increased our uptake from 40% to 60% in 2019 and sickness rate reduced.

It about health promotion but also realising we have a responsibility and a duty of care to our residents.

Ryan

My name is Ryan Goulding. I am a Staff Nurse Eist Linn, a CAMHS inpatient service catering for young people aged 12-17.

This was my first year being a peer vaccinator, or 'flu fighter' as we like to call ourselves. Myself and my 2 colleagues Lynn Staff Nurse, and Marie Therese CNM2 spearheaded this years vaccination effort. We all organised, and conducted several onsite clinics as well as travelling to Mallow Primary Care Centre to vaccinate our colleagues in the North Cork CAMHS team. 

Our DON Jennie Synnott suggested that we engage in some healthy competition with our colleagues in Linn Dara, another CAMHS inpatient unit based in Dublin. It was decided that we would have a Vaccination Challenge and whoever vaccinated the most percentage of staff would be the overall winner. A Twitter war ensued and both sides posted regular updates of their stats. It was a great way to drum up a bit of discussion around the vaccinations and get a few more people interested in getting the flu vaccine.

This year we managed to vaccinate double the amount of staff from last year. Eist Linn narrowly beat Linn Dara with a few last minute vaccinations. Linn Dara in keeping with good sportsmanship brought a box of chocolates to Eist Linn on a visit to congratulate us on this.

I think this says a great deal about the compassionate and altruistic nature of our respective teams.

I would recommend anyone to get involved in the peer vaccination programme. It has been great fun and also a great learning experience for me and my colleagues. The training was very educational and engaging and it was great to be able to utilise a skill that we don't always get to utilise in CAMHS. 

I would also urge anyone who hasn't had the vaccine to get it as there's always still time. If you won't vaccinate for yourself then do it for someone in your life that can't do it for themselves or the people you work with who are at their most vulnerable.

Bernie

People like Ennis resident Bernie Tierney, who has been a Household Attendant at Ennis Hospital for the past two decades, play a vital role in keeping hospitals functioning safely for patients and staff alike.

Bernie has been a Household Attendant at Ennis Hospital for the past 20 years, and in recent years has voluntarily added to her busy daily workload by becoming a Flu Vaccine Advocate.

This decision stems from her own gruelling experience several years ago, when she was laid low by a particularly serious dose of influenza that incapacitated her and left her bed-ridden for several days.

“I was very sick with it,” Bernie explains with a shudder. “I ended up in bed for three days, and I felt so sick, with pains in every part of my body. My children had to do everything for me.”

“As soon as I recovered, I said to myself, ‘Never again! From now on, I’m going to get the flu vaccine.’ So, I’ve been getting the flu vaccine every year since, and, touch wood, I haven’t had the flu since,” she recalls.

Because Bernie’s work routine brings her into contact with many patients and staff in different parts of the hospital, she soon began to consider and appreciate the benefits of the flu vaccine for everyone – colleagues and patients, as well as her own family and the wider community.

As a Flu Vaccine Advocate, Bernie complements the efforts of management at Ennis Hospital and across the sites of UL Hospitals Group to encourage all staff to get the flu vaccine and keep hospitals safe for patients, colleagues, and their families, friends and neighbours.

Her Household Attendant duties make Bernie particularly well attuned to the importance of cleaning and hygiene.

"I’m very particular when it comes cleaning, because all day, in different parts of the hospital, I'm cleaning everything, including worktops, toilets, windows, floors, radiators and bins,” she explains.

Throughout the period of the Winter Action Plan in the Mid-West, Bernie is stepping up her efforts to encourage as many of her colleagues as possible to have the flu vaccine.

"I think it’s important for everybody in high-risk areas like hospitals to protect themselves and patients, as well as their colleagues and their families. The way I see it, the flu vaccine is the best way we have to protect ourselves and the people around us all the time," Bernie says.

"Often it's the younger people who will be saying, 'Oh, we don't need to take that.' But I think everyone should get the vaccine. And it's nice to come across people who take the vaccine for the first time because I’ve told them my story, and encouraged them to get it," she explains.

It's clear that Ennis Hospital is a big part of Bernie's life. On Christmas Day, when most people will be tucking into their turkey dinners, Bernie helped to bring Santa to the hospital to visit the wards and deliver presents to the patients.

"I love doing that, and I love the cleaning. It's what I love most about the job. It's quite challenging, balancing the different responsibilities, but very rewarding, and I see encouraging people to get the flu vaccine as an extension of that," Bernie concludes.

People like Ennis resident Bernie Tierney, who has been a Household Attendant at Ennis Hospital for the past two decades, play a vital role in keeping hospitals functioning safely for patients and staff alike.

Bernie has been a Household Attendant at Ennis Hospital for the past 20 years, and in recent years has voluntarily added to her busy daily workload by becoming a Flu Vaccine Advocate.

This decision stems from her own gruelling experience several years ago, when she was laid low by a particularly serious dose of influenza that incapacitated her and left her bed-ridden for several days.

“I was very sick with it,” Bernie explains with a shudder. “I ended up in bed for three days, and I felt so sick, with pains in every part of my body. My children had to do everything for me.”

“As soon as I recovered, I said to myself, ‘Never again! From now on, I’m going to get the flu vaccine.’ So, I’ve been getting the flu vaccine every year since, and, touch wood, I haven’t had the flu since,” she recalls.

Because Bernie’s work routine brings her into contact with many patients and staff in different parts of the hospital, she soon began to consider and appreciate the benefits of the flu vaccine for everyone – colleagues and patients, as well as her own family and the wider community.

As a Flu Vaccine Advocate, Bernie complements the efforts of management at Ennis Hospital and across the sites of UL Hospitals Group to encourage all staff to get the flu vaccine and keep hospitals safe for patients, colleagues, and their families, friends and neighbours.

Her Household Attendant duties make Bernie particularly well attuned to the importance of cleaning and hygiene.

"I’m very particular when it comes cleaning, because all day, in different parts of the hospital, I'm cleaning everything, including worktops, toilets, windows, floors, radiators and bins,” she explains.

Throughout the period of the Winter Action Plan in the Mid-West, Bernie is stepping up her efforts to encourage as many of her colleagues as possible to have the flu vaccine.

"I think it’s important for everybody in high-risk areas like hospitals to protect themselves and patients, as well as their colleagues and their families. The way I see it, the flu vaccine is the best way we have to protect ourselves and the people around us all the time," Bernie says.

"Often it's the younger people who will be saying, 'Oh, we don't need to take that.' But I think everyone should get the vaccine. And it's nice to come across people who take the vaccine for the first time because I’ve told them my story, and encouraged them to get it," she explains.

It's clear that Ennis Hospital is a big part of Bernie's life. On Christmas Day, when most people will be tucking into their turkey dinners, Bernie helped to bring Santa to the hospital to visit the wards and deliver presents to the patients.

"I love doing that, and I love the cleaning. It's what I love most about the job. It's quite challenging, balancing the different responsibilities, but very rewarding, and I see encouraging people to get the flu vaccine as an extension of that," Bernie concludes.

Caoimhe

Tiny Senan Fraser received the first of his childhood vaccinations in the Rotunda Hospital before he should have even been born.

At 63 days old, having been ventilated five times endured countless procedures, his parents Stuart and Caoimhe gave consent for their strong son to get the vaccines. Although it was difficult to see him endure more needles, their feeling was one of relief. “Was it difficult to consent? Of course, I wished that he didn’t have to have more injections in his tiny muscles and I wondered if his little body could respond effectively, but mostly I felt a sense of relief that vaccines were available to protect our son from diseases that have caused so many deaths,” said mum Caoimhe.

Senan was delivered by emergency caesarean section in December at 25 weeks and six days gestation.

“He weighed just 765 grams after pregnancy-induced hypertension became a risk to both Senan and I,” said Caoimhe.

“As an Assistant Director of Nursing in Infection Prevention and Control in a large teaching hospital in Dublin, I have spent years educating about outbreak prevention. I have had the opportunity to review the evidence and know that vaccines work. There is little you can control as a mother of a premature baby that is covered in wires and tubes.

“People often asked me at the beginning ‘how can you bear to leave him every night?’ I coped by trying to be as practical as possible to enable me to put one foot in front of the other. Part of that was to rely on my knowledge of what is safe care.

“It soon became apparent that the quality of the care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was exceptional and all care provided included and focused on reducing the risk of Senan acquiring an infection as much as is possible. I knew that providing safe care during influenza season included having a good staff uptake of the influenza vaccine.”

She said that learning that the Rotunda Hospital had over 80% compliance rate of uptake reassured her that staff were thinking of how to protect little Senan before they even walked through the door of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“High vaccination uptake rates indicated to both my husband Stuart and I that the staff believed in evidence-based care, which helped us trust the other life-saving decisions they had to make for Senan. We had both gotten the vaccine in October, and it was one way we knew we were protecting him.”

She said that they did not ask any staff members in the NICU had they received the influenza vaccine, nor did they request that they only wanted vaccinated staff to care for Senan.

“I did it for the same reasons that patients do not complain: I did not want to upset the people that were working so skilfully to keep our son alive. Would I have regretted this decision if Senan had developed a severe infection? I’ll never know, but I do know that every person who took the time to take the vaccine increased the chance of survival for Senan,” explained Caoimhe.

“How can the result of that ever truly be measured? In the future, will the people that Senan loves or that love him, the people that he makes laugh, educates, or the impact his life will have in the world be attributed to vaccine uptake? Of course not. Healthcare has such complex delivery that there is millions of ‘what ifs’ that could have changed his path thus far. In addition to the superb skill of the staff, watching the scientific inventions and practices that have kept Senan alive has been somewhat terrifying, fascinating and most importantly successful as we finally brought Senan home after over three months in the NICU.

“Senan and his comrades in the NICU receiving their vaccinations have to be the heroes of this story. The tenacity, strength and grace of the tiny babies in the unit is a truly unique thing to witness and very humbling. But the staff will always be my heroes too for protecting our son by getting vaccinated. You have made a difference and helped Senan along his way. Thank you.

Julie

Mum Julie Arnott explains why she and her son be getting the flu vaccine In October 2018, my son Ronan was a bit under the weather so I took him to our GP. 

Ronan wouldn’t wake up by the time I got there. His eyes opened after a nebuliser, but he was still limp. The GP sent me straight to hospital where Ronan was admitted, given steroid inhaler, oral steroids and, after an x-ray, he got an antibiotic just in case. He was diagnosed with viral-induced asthma. Thankfully, he recovered. In January 2019, I collected Ronan from crèche Friday evening and he had a bit of a snuffle. 

The next day I heard his chest wasn’t great so I gave him his inhaler and thought I better bring him to the doctor. I arrived in K-doc and Ronan was taken straight from the waiting room by the nurse who called an ambulance. A doctor arrived and Ronan was given oral steroids and nebulisers. He was given more nebulisers in the ambulance on my lap on the stretcher. His eyes were rolling and he wasn’t conscious. He was carried into triage by a paramedic whilst the other held an oxygen tank. In triage, the two paramedics, two nurses and the paediatric doctor gave him more nebulisers and tried to stabilise him. I felt helpless. I was so glad when Ronan made a full recovery. 

Ronan and I will be getting the flu vaccine this season. The more people that get the vaccine, the more people in our community can be protected.

 

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This page was added on 27 April 2020