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Immunisation

Messages to other parents

The overwhelming majority of parents believe in immunisation for their children. We have however included here the views of a few parents who do not believe immunisation is right for their own child based on their personal beliefs. Their views represent a small proportion of the population.

We asked the parents we interviewed what messages or advice they would give to other parents who were making decisions about their child's immunisations. Here is what they said.

When making your decision:

  • The risk from complications of the illnesses are much greater than risks from the immunisation
  • It's natural to worry but it feels so good afterwards knowing your child is safe 
  • Consider the risk to your child of not immunising 
  • Remember how amazing it is that immunisation exists and what it has achieved
  • Consider your responsibility to the general public and to other children 
 

It's natural to worry but it feels so good afterwards knowing your child is safe.

It's natural to worry but it feels so good afterwards knowing your child is safe.

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I think it's good to talk to other people that have went through it, because I know that even going through the three immunisations that I've been through before and, and I clearly remember the panic a week before, how I was feeling. Maybe it was just my fear of needles but I don't know, how I was feeling until how I felt after it. And because it's in the past it's, you know, nothing happened, 'That's him immunised, I don't have to worry about any of them diseases. I know that he's fine, he's had his immunisation against it, I know he'll be healthy'. So just, I think you can benefit a lot from speaking to people, saying, 'Oh, yes, I know, I feel your worries and it's okay if you're scared. But I put my kid through it and look what happened' they're fine you know. I think it's good to know that it's safe to, it's natural to worry because you love your child so much that you would do anything to protect them. It's fine to worry, but speak to others that have went through it and they'll tell you they worried just as much as you and they got through it.
 
 

Remember how amazing it is that immunisation exists and what it has achieved.

Remember how amazing it is that immunisation exists and what it has achieved.

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Of course it's your own decision and you have to decide what's right for your child but I think it's definitely worth it to think about the fact that immunisations really are miracles and they have decreased the death rate of all these, the rates that people get these diseases has gone down so incredibly, we are so lucky to have them because we would be facing so much more worry if we didn't have them. And so I think of course you have to decide for yourself for your own child but, but I think, you know, really immunisations are great and if you ever want to travel in developing countries, you know, that's another thing you never you, you certainly should have your children immunised then and also I think it is a matter of responsibility to the general public and to other children, that I think that should be considered as well.

 

The diseases are much worse than the immunisation.

The diseases are much worse than the immunisation.

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It isn't pleasant you know different babies react differently to them if you're not sure then speak to the nurse before she does the injections to reassure you and don't hesitate to speak to them afterwards if the baby is fractious but it is quite normal for them to be a little bit off colour certainly after the first set. But it does only last a very short time. And it's horrible hearing your baby cry but they stop crying and they forget and I don't remember having any injections done when I was little so you do forget. But you know they need to be done because all the things they're being immunised are horrible things to have and your baby is going to be far worse if you don't immunise them than, than if you do. So not pleasant but necessary.

  • Not a decision to be taken lightly but has to be made 
  • Don't feel pressurised in to making a decision and take time to make sure that you feel happy with the decision you make 
  • Gather information until you are happy with your decision 
  • Do what you think is best for your child 
  • If you've got concerns, discuss them with an expert. Every parent should have access to a trained health professional to chat about the risks of catching the diseases and about the benefits and potential risks of immunisation for their own child, and the population in general.  Parents can talk to their GP, health visitor or practice nurse. There is also an immunisation advisor in each local health protection unit, whom parents can talk to about their child's immunisations.  
 

Listen to your instincts as you are likely to be the best judge for your child.

Listen to your instincts as you are likely to be the best judge for your child.

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To kind of listen to your instincts and if you think that your child is really ill or, then don't, make sure that people take you seriously. Because I feel that you as a parent are most likely to be the best judge of that'. Yes, so I think that's what I would, I would mainly say. And also I mean I would encourage people definitely to make sure  that their children get immunised of the things like polio and diphtheria which have an impact on the population, but also to make sure that  when they do get it that their children are really healthy  and sort of in good form and not at a time when they are stressed out anyway.
 
 

If you have concerns about MMR, get some expert advice.

If you have concerns about MMR, get some expert advice.

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I think a lot of it is definitely media hype, but I think an awful lot of people now are going back to the MMR, from what I've been talking to parents and things like that, because there is so many things that have come out of it. There is an increase in mumps, there is an increase in chicken pox, there's a huge increase of measles, and I think people are more scared of that now, than they are the MMR. And in a way I'm glad that they're going back to it because this will sort of stabilise all those things that could have been prevented in the first place. But I think if you've got any concerns about the MMR then you really need to discuss them with either your health visitor or your GP and get some expert advice on it.

 

You need to make sure you are informed, listen to professionals and read up.

You need to make sure you are informed, listen to professionals and read up.

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Mine was not a difficult experience. Both my girls went through it fine. I mean I had the obvious anxieties like any new mum, you know, worrying and you don't want your child to go through anything, you know, they're very precious to you. But you have to do what you feel and what you think is right, because you'd never forgive yourself if you had made a wrong decision either way.I think it's a very personal thing. And you need, I think you do need to make sure you are informed and listen to what the professionals say. And if you're still in doubt make more make more time to sort of think about it further either by looking, reading on the Internet or in books or whatever. It's not a decision to be taken lightly but it's a decision that needs to be made.

 

Don't have your child immunised until you are happy with your decision.

Don't have your child immunised until you are happy with your decision.

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I think the only advice I used to say to parents whose children I had to vaccinate because that was part of my job was that the guidelines for the ages at the eight weeks, twelve weeks, sixteen weeks and then again later on for the MMR, they are only guidelines and people often feel railroaded into the day their baby is eight weeks old they have to go and have them vaccinated. And I would say to parents if you're not sure then, then don't do it until you've read some information or you've acquired some information that makes you more sure.

When gathering information 

  • It is absolutely right and normal that parents are concerned about the optimal health of their children and it is important that parents seek reliable scientific evidence on which to base their decisions and there is now a mass of this information available.  
  • Start thinking about immunisation when you are pregnant so that you can give immunisation decisions some careful consideration 
  • Gather as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision
  • Don't just listen to what you hear in the media, make sure the facts you use to make your decision are based on well-researched evidence and accurate information. 
  • If you have concerns, talk to your GP as well as the health visitor
  • If you're not satisfied with the information you're being given, or you still have concerns, find a health professional who has time to talk to you or ask to speak to a specialist
  • Talk to other parents who have already made the decision for their own children
  • Talk to older people about their experiences before immunisation was available
  • Often talking to a health professional provides reassurance but if you decide you want to find out more go to the source of the information - read the research articles in medical journals if possible rather than the media reports of it.
  • Be open-minded - don't base your decision only on what the media or the government says
  • Try to get unbiased views. Information from different sources and websites has different agendas. Try to read between the lines to get to the true information. 
  • Make sure you understand the risks and possible side effects of the vaccine
 

Get as much information as you can, don't feel pressurised by anyone else and feel happy with...

Get as much information as you can, don't feel pressurised by anyone else and feel happy with...

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I would say, 'Try and find as much information as you can. Try and talk to as many people as you can, older people that didn't have the immunisations available to them and obviously contemporaries. And try and find a health professional who will sit and talk to you. And try and ask peoplewhat they've done. Just get as much information as you can. And don't be frightened one way or the other. If you make a decision then that's absolutely fine. You know, if you go ahead and have the injections  then that's good too because you're happy with that choice. Don't feel pressurised by anyone else, you know. Feel happy with your decision'.

 

It can be a huge relief to talk to an expert so ask for a second opinion if you don't feel you...

It can be a huge relief to talk to an expert so ask for a second opinion if you don't feel you...

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I'd say ask for a second opinion, if you're not satisfied, with the information that you're being given. Go back to your GP, if necessary, because they'll be very helpful. And if necessary ask to speak to a specialist immunologist. I had a five-minute, less than ten-minute call, with this paediatric immunologist, and it just was like a breath of fresh air. It was a huge relief because I felt I could then make the best decision that I could make, under the circumstances, being always aware that there was a risk and it actually went extremely well. So and I'm very pleased that I went ahead and actually I'm pleased that I made the decision. And I'm pleased that it went well at the hospital and that's she's now protected against those illnesses. 

 

Talk to the community paediatrician if you have concerns.

Talk to the community paediatrician if you have concerns.

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That's what we're there for, you know, in terms of the community paediatrics that we do immunisation is a major part of what we deal with. And  we are certainly there and available to answer any questions. We have regular child health clinics for parents. Most of them, certainly where I work there are walk-in clinics, you don't even need an appointment. Yeah you can just come in and, and talk about it. And actually where I work if parents do have specific concerns or they want to have more time to address concerns in detail we have other clinics that we run where I can refer the parents to have that opportunity to talk about it with, with other paediatric staff. And actually have a set appointment to be able to have the time to address that. So we have that available as well. If parents want that or if there are specific things they want to talk about I'm certainly quite happy to do that. It may involve, you know, two or three weeks waiting to get the appointment. But it's not a huge amount of time. It's not going to make a significant difference. And that will give them the opportunity to talk about whatever it is in more detail. And I've certainly done that a few times. When I just haven't been able to sort it out in the particular setting or in the particular time scale. I'm certainly able to do that and, and it's absolutely fine. It happens quite a lot.

 

Be aware that different information sources have different agendas.

Be aware that different information sources have different agendas.

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Mother' I think research. Just keep reading everything you can get your hands on and make your own view. You know, there are some very good websites that have balanced information. You do just have to go through it, you have to trawl and make your own judgements about what you think's right and what's wrong. And ultimately it's your gut instinct as a parent. I truly believe that parents do have that instinct for their children and you have to look at your child and decide. Make sure you understand what the potential side-effects are but look at your child and think, 'Are they well enough? And do they need this vaccination? Do I understand the illnesses it's vaccinating against and, you know, the complications or otherwise of that?' And, and then make, make your own choice based on that. So we're not saying, 'Absolutely don't vaccinate' but, 'Just make sure you understand the risks'.  

Father' And double-check the information as well, that as much as you can't trust information necessarily from websites.  You obviously go to technical papers and they have to go through peer reviews and you get people who disagree with those anyway, scientists in a similar field. But also it's to be aware that information that comes from the government as well is also trying to achieve a purpose, and to actually try and read between the lines. Because you're not trying to fulfil some government quota or doctor's quota, what you're trying to do is to protect your child. So you need to determine what's the best way to protect your child.

Last reviewed October 2015.
Last updated July 2013

 

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