Why I vaccinate?

European Immunisation Week (EIW) is celebrated across the European Region every April to raise awareness of the importance of immunisation for people’s health and well-being.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the benefits of vaccines and to celebrate the “vaccine heroes” who contribute in so many ways to protecting lives through vaccination.

We asked people to tell us why they encourage people to get vaccinated. Here are their stories

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 breast feeding 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.

Caoimhe - Flu vaccine

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 skillfully 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 millons 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 - Flu vaccine

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.

Elyce - Pertussis in Pregnancy

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 the 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. 

Jean - MMR vaccine

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 - MMR vaccine

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).

Michelle - HPV vaccine

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 mums 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.

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. 

 

Visit our "Vaccines Work" section to read our top 10 facts about why vaccines are important. 

Would you like to tell us your story? Please contact us here 

This page was added on 4 November 2019