This morning we’re delighted to have Alex’s Mum with us to talk about a subject very close to her heart and head. Childhood immunisation. If you don’t know the story about Alex and his  Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia you can read about the last two years of his life from diagnosis to being in remission in these blogs. This is Alex. Alex, An updateAlex, Words from Mum.

Our word of the week is VACCINATION

Catherine writes:

“There are many parents in this world who have children with a life-threatening or life-limiting illness. I am only one of them and we have been incredibly lucky – not only do we live in a prosperous country with access to world-class healthcare, but on top of that our son responded fantastically to his treatment and looks very likely to survive this terrifying condition.

Alex during and prior to treatment.

Some aren’t so lucky. And for those my heart breaks. Because there but by the grace of god go all of us. Serious illness was so unexpected but suddenly we were catapulted into a world previously unknown to us – a dark, terrifying world in which our fierce love for our children, our instinct to protect them, our determination for them to live and thrive is not enough to keep our precious bundles from harm. So much of Alex’s life was taken from our control – suddenly we had to trust other people, highly trained and specialised other people admittedly, with the very existence of our son. And with that also comes the hope that other people in the community at large will also play their part.

The community at large donates blood, joins the stem cell register, raises money for cancer research and support organisations. All these are wonderful and highly commendable, but what keeps mothers and fathers like me awake at night are the risks we face every day. Because normal childhood illnesses could kill our precious children. And so here is my rant…

Not vaccinating your children isn’t a choice that only affects your child. I couldn’t care less if you breast feed or bottle feed, if you go for a natural birth or book yourself in for a Caesarian the first opportunity, you can feed your child a diet of fizzy drinks and Monster Munch for all I care (though I’d judge on that last one) but not vaccinating your child puts every other child at risk. Every single one.

Vaccines are not 100% effective. Many anti-vaxxers use this in their arguments against immunisations but it is precisely for this reason that you should ensure your child is protected from these illnesses. Herd immunity is important – below a certain level of uptake the viruses can take root in a community – which puts at risk those who have reduced immunity, the unvaccinated (including those too young to be vaccinated and with serious medical conditions) and those for whom the vaccination was ineffective.

It makes me laugh (somewhat sardonically) when people talk about “toxins” being given to their babies. Seriously, you should see the stuff they put directly into my son’s veins – stuff so toxic you can’t get it on your skin, stuff so toxic it can itself directly cause a secondary cancer, stuff so toxic that a sign is put up on his hospital room warning about it. To those people I say “you have no idea what you are talking about”.

So it’s not just your choice, not just your child – but a choice that effects every child (and many adults) in the community at large. One small syringe is a gift to you and your child – protection against some awful and potentially deadly illness, and also protects the entire community. Really…what is there to think about?”


Alex and brother Milo recently


Words and images Catherine Drury

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