By Laura Brierley Newton.
Did your parents choose to not get you vaccinated, and now you’re wondering whether to catch up on all those vaccinations everybody is talking about?
The Medical Journal of Australia recently reported that of the 4.1 million unvaccinated Australians, 92 per cent (3.8 million) were adults.
There are a number of reasons behind an adult not being vaccinated — maybe their parents were worried about side effects, or after one dose they had a reaction.
Associate Professor Nicholas Wood from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) said another factor was Australia’s “luck”.
“Some of these diseases are not as common as they are in other parts of the world, and so people say, ‘I’m at low risk of getting it, therefore getting vaccinated is not at the top of my priority list’,” he said.
So what do you need to know if you decide to catch up on your vaccinations?
First things first, visit your GP
Dr Wood said first up is a visit to your GP, who can put together a catch-up schedule for you.
“That involves several doses of a few vaccines — particularly diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus,” he said.
The tetanus vaccine requires three doses for a person to have a reliable protection against the disease.
“You need at least one dose of the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine (MMR) — and ideally two,” he said.
“You probably also need a chicken pox vaccine — if you get chicken pox as an adult it can be particularly nasty.”
As well as the itchy spots produced by the chicken pox disease — which can leave a scar — some people can also go on to develop pneumonia and in rare cases a brain infection such as encephalitis.
Dr Wood said there were certain rules for catch-up schedules, such as a minimum interval between doses.
Some people might decide to get a blood test to check what immunities they may or may not have.
Vaccination-produced immunities, and natural immunities, may show up in a blood test, but that can be largely dependent on how long ago the vaccination was administered.
Dr Wood’s advice is if you are unsure, get the vaccination.
What if I had chicken pox, measles as a kid?
The first question for anyone who believes they had any of these diseases as a child, said Dr Wood, was to make sure that it actually was chicken pox or measles.
“There are many viruses that can cause a measles-like rash,” he said.
The only way to be sure would be if there was a laboratory confirmation of the disease at the time the person had the disease, and it was detected.
So if you only know that your mother thinks it was chicken pox or measles, but never had it tested to double check, then you’re better off getting the vaccine.