baby

“I was so frightened. We made sure we were all immunised and up to date – but we never knew those other children weren’t vaccinated.”

It was a relative’s child who gave it to baby Elyse, a relative’s child at a family function.

A function Melissa says she didn’t really want to attend anyway.

But she did – as you do when family expects such things  – and with her was her five-week-old daughter Elyse.

Melissa and her daughter Elyse, who is now 3. Image supplied.

Melissa was careful. She ensured that the only people who held her tiny daughter was her and her partner, as well as her mother-in-law. She’d been so careful over the last five weeks to make sure her newborn had not been exposed to too many people, worried at her delicate age she would catch a cold.

But it turned out that she feared the wrong thing.

At just five-weeks of age Elyse caught chickenpox from an unvaccinated relative, a child from a family who didn’t believe in vaccines, but who chose not to tell anyone at the time. As she wasn't yet six weeks old Elyse had not been fully vaccinated herself.

“She got really lethargic and unresponsive,” Melissa explained to Mamamia.

"She was not eating, she had fevers and every hour I had to check her breathing and temperature in case we had to rush her back to hospital.”

But it wasn’t just Elyse who was affected. Melissa, from the stress and anxiety developed postnatal depression. The mother and baby were admitted to hospital and spent four weeks recovering.

“I had extreme anxiety. As a first time mum I felt like I had not protected her as I should have.”

Melissa says she gave the other family “a piece of her mind” but still they refuse to vaccinate.

“No one knows the pains and the heartache that we really went though. The scars are for me to deal with saying sorry doesn’t fix it.

You think that it won’t happen to me. But it does. Via IStock.

Melissa, now a mum of two,  says that the anti-vaccination movement worries her.

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“They disappoint me, when we vaccinate our children we are protecting the community, there are children who can’t be immunization. I feel comfortable that my daughter is vaccinated to protect other children. But they don’t care.”

Melissa is speaking out at the start of World Immunisation Week and in light of a Victorian government public health campaign, Immunity for Community.

Melissa says that its important people take notice of this campaign.

"You think that it won’t happen to me, I want to make people aware that even little kids, we thought we were safe, around family, but it does happen."

Immunity for Community - a campaign that you can share through the Better Health Channel - aims to encourage more parents to have their children vaccinated regularly in order to protect their families and the wider community from the spread of illnesses.

As we know high levels of immunisation coverage create herd immunity, which is the level of immunity required to interrupt the spread of a disease throughout the population. Herd immunity’is crucial to protect people who can’t be vaccinated themselves, such as those too young to be vaccinated or those undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy which affects the immune systems’ ability to respond effectively.

Dr Margie Danchin, Paediatrician at The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne agreed that the community needs to realise that it isn’t just about the individual.

“It's important to understand that the most vulnerable in our community can't always receive vaccines, “ she said

“Young babies, the elderly and those with lowered immunity rely on us to be vaccinated to protect them.”

Herd immunity’is crucial to protect people who can’t be vaccinated themselves. Via IStock.

Dr Danchin compares immunisation to the road rules.

“When we all agree to do what we can to keep each other safe ...everyone benefits.”

In Australia 92.8 percent of children under five are fully vaccinated. This indicates high levels of protection for Australian children, however this still falls shy of the government’s target of 95 percent.

“If there something out there to protect your children why wouldn’t you?” Melissa with Elyse. Image supplied.

Dr Danchin feels that some parents get overwhelmed by the vaccination debate.

Parents want to know they’re doing the right thing by immunising.  She says. So they go looking for answers and can find themselves “overwhelmed” with all sorts of opinions presented as facts.

“It’s important to talk to professionals” she says.

For Melissa, whose daughter is now three-years-old, it’s about saving lives.

“If there something out there to protect your children why wouldn’t you?”

For more information on immunisation or to download the Vax On Time Time app visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au.

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