A-Z

Immunisation

Parents' attitudes to childhood immunisation

The vast 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.

Most of the parents who we spoke to said that immunisations for children were important for a number of reasons. Many understood that they were not just protecting their own children and that they had a social responsibility to immunise their children to cut down the spread of potentially dangerous infectious diseases in the rest of the population. They recognised that while children who were unprotected might recover from infection without incurring any lasting problems, the risk of suffering a serious complication from one of the diseases was vastly greater that the possible risks from immunisation. Some also mentioned that with universal immunisation there was a real possibility of eradicating (wiping out) some of these potentially serious diseases.

 

Parents have a social responsibility to immunise their children to keep the population as healthy...

Parents have a social responsibility to immunise their children to keep the population as healthy...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And the measles, I was, you know, just concerned from a social standpoint that basically people need to be vaccinated in order to keep these diseases under control for the good of everybody, not just, you know, for your own child. And I did feel that I had a social responsibility element to that, and that as a parent I would be very angry if my daughter was in a nursery with a lot of children who hadn't been vaccinated and it became an issue. I mean hopefully she'll be all right, having been vaccinated. But I, I think it's, you know, if the health was there and the preventative health was there, that you should take it up, provided you feel it's safe for your, you know, for your child.

 

Immunisations are an important medical advance and parents need to immunise their children to...

Immunisations are an important medical advance and parents need to immunise their children to...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think they are putting their children and other people's children at risk. And it's a known fact that, that since the MMR debate mumps and measles is going up. And I can understand, I can understand people being frightened about having their children immunised because, especially if they've never had, never given children immunisation before, they, they'll be frightened about anything happening to their child afterwards. But the, the chances are very, very slim of anything happening. Yes, children can have reactions to certain injections and some people can be very poorly from it. But I think that they're putting their, yes, I think they're putting theirs and other people's children at risk from serious disease. And I think these injections are here for a reason. And it's like going back in time really. And, you know, the millions and millions and millions of children who have these injections, these immunisations every year all, all across the world, you know. So the chance of anything happening is very, very rare. But by not immunising your child, diseases are going to start going up again.

 

It's important to help to reduce the incidence of measles to protect pregnant women.

It's important to help to reduce the incidence of measles to protect pregnant women.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I just think, reading about it and reading everything that he said, the bad outweighed the good, and, and the whole fact that recently there was a whole measles epidemic because people weren't immunising. And I, and I just, I actually do think it's socially the thing to do. I think if we'd all do it, we can stop it. And I think I did it to protect not just myself if I get pregnant again with the measles, I did it to protect other pregnant women. I just think it's something I think we should all do as a community to protect everyone around us, you know. I just wondered how I would feel if I was pregnant, you know, and met a mum who hadn't immunised her baby and there was a measles epidemic, you know. Just the more, definitely the pros outweighed the cons.  

 

It's important to help to eradicate infectious diseases.

It's important to help to eradicate infectious diseases.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I wouldn't have any hesitation in sort of saying to people that they have to get it done, because the risk of what your child could potentially catch instead of the sort of, you know, the two, three days of possible sort of fever and, and discomfort, it just outweighs it ten times over. So I mean I would, even though you have your concerns, and I mean I was a completely neurotic, you know, new mum, but I think generally long-term view it would be really unwise not to immunise your child. You have to, I mean we've all been immunised, you know, and you have to sort of, it, I mean it helps in terms of the, the sort of the environment you're in just to keep everything as safe as possible and disease free.

Others stressed that high levels of immunisation in the community, known as 'herd immunity', protected those children who were most vulnerable, such as those not old enough to be immunised, or those with lowered immune systems, for example, children with leukaemia, who could not be immunised. It is these groups of children who are most likely to suffer complications if they caught these diseases and in some cases they can be fatal. 

 

Young babies not old enough to be immunised against measles and mumps are more at risk of...

Young babies not old enough to be immunised against measles and mumps are more at risk of...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
It's just so terrible that the levels of global or you know, general immunity against measles for example have gone down below protection levels. That means that even if my daughter has been immunised, she might be exposed to the virus. She, well, because she has been immunised she will be probably safe. But other children, who haven't yet been immunised because they haven't reached the age when they can be immunised, MMR cannot be given before 1 year old. But if there are more and more children in the community that haven't been immunised because the parents thought that vaccine wasn't good, that makes, that increases the chances for children whose, whose parents will give them the vaccine a bit later on when they get to 1 or more, that these children can get the infection because others didn't get vaccinated. So I think that's terrible. I think it's irresponsible. If you take a decision on your life or your child's life, because you are the parent, you should also consider others. And this is a matter of public health and that's why I'm surprised that the government doesn't have a more strict position about this.  
 
 

Children with lowered immune systems who cannot have live immunisations are more at risk of...

Children with lowered immune systems who cannot have live immunisations are more at risk of...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Well, I think the issue of herd immunity tends to be rather disparaged by anti-immunisation campaigners. 'Oh' they're sort of saying, 'Oh, you know, it's treating us like animals'. Well of course in terms of infectious diseases we are like animals. It's a biological problem. And if you've got a low level of immunity in the community as a whole then it creates vulnerability. And, and the particular problem that creates of course is the vulnerability to the more susceptible individuals. And children who can't receive immunisations for some reason, because they're having treatment for some malignant condition or some way their immunity is compromised and therefore they can't receive a vaccine like MMR, they're highly dependent upon the herd immunity. Because if the herd immunity drops they're much more likely to get it, I mean we've already seen in London a couple of cases of children who've got measles encephalitis, which they may not have got if the herd immunity had been maintained at a higher level. So that's a very real consideration.

Many parents did say that they believed that immunisations in general were important and parents should be socially responsible but if they thought they were putting their child at risk in any way, they would not choose to immunise. 

 

She believed in being socially responsible but had she thought there was any risk to her child,...

She believed in being socially responsible but had she thought there was any risk to her child,...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I know that these diseases, these childhood diseases I know are very uncomfortable, serious but not very dangerous, but that they can have some complications which are rare but which then are very problematic. So, there's, this on the one hand, so it's, if you catch these diseases, guaranteed discomfort and a small risk of having something very serious. And then on the other hand there's the vaccinations, for which mostly there is very little risk attached. So it seems to me that apart from the, for the MMR, it seems to me that it's completely clear-cut. Is, it's an advance that we can have these vaccinations and it's not only for the child but it's also for the population. It's, civic duty to have a child vaccinated because the risks of complications also, I understand, are if, conditional on catching these diseases, the risk of complication is probably higher if a child is malnourished or living in less good conditions. So all these factors combine together. So I think that for a number of children having, it, it's not so much to prevent themselves from having the complications, it's because in the society at large it's necessary that everybody has it.  

It's a public duty, a civic duty, but on the other hand if you're convinced that, or if you know somebody who's had very, very adverse reaction, or if you're convinced that you're going to have a very adverse reaction, then it makes perfect sense not to have your child immunised. Statistics are a very good thing but you know, it's your own child and you don't want, if, your gut feeling is that it entails a very important risk, then, well, if, if it had been my gut feeling I certainly wouldn't have done it. But my gut feeling was that on the basis of the information that I had it, it didn't entail a very important risk.
 

Some parents commented on how lucky we are to have immunisations in the UK, that they have eliminated some diseases and that parents should take advantage of them. In some countries in the world, such as France and USA, immunisations are compulsory and parents don't have a choice to make. In other countries, immunisations are not available and children often die from infectious diseases or suffer long-term side effects.

 

There is no need for children to suffer these diseases when immunisations are available to...

There is no need for children to suffer these diseases when immunisations are available to...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I felt quite, in a way quite strongly about having children immunised in order to I guess protect the wider public. I know it, it's a bit more difficult when they're, when it's your own child and you're looking at, you know, a very personal thing. You're obviously not going to want to do them any harm. But I think in general they have been of great benefit and have really, I don't know, stopped a lot of people dying from things that are very, very preventable. My husband's brother was very, very sick with measles. So for something that as I say so preventable, it just seems, seemed to me a, quite a natural and obvious way to protect your children against something that they didn't really need to be battling against.

 

We are lucky to have immunisations available in the UK to prevent these diseases.

We are lucky to have immunisations available in the UK to prevent these diseases.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think also I, it's a, I see it as a little bit of a, as a responsibility to, it's not just about your child. You know, it's one of these things that it's like the Prisoner's Dilemma, if we all stop vaccinating, vaccinating these diseases would come back within, you know, within years we'd be, we'd be back to sort of Victorian kind of children falling ill from all these communicable, and I don't, I'm not sure, I think people seem to have a, sometimes a bit of a short memory about how much child, childhood health has improved in the UK and how large a part in, you know, injections have played immunisations have played in that. And, yeah, it's a shame, which just shows you how, you know, we're living in such kind of privileged times that we can even afford to think about, you know, whether or not to get our kids injections. Because before this, when, you know, it was just a real privilege to be able to protect your child like that.

A very small number of parents had reservations about immunisations for children. A few personally believed that the diseases were occurring less anyway so there is no longer a need for all children to be immunised. Until these diseases are eradicated (wiped out), every child that is not immunised is at risk of complications if they catch the actual infectious disease itself.

A few of these parents personally believed that building up their child's immune system, through diet and homeopathy, was better than having immunisations. There is no evidence that this in any way substitutes for the protection given by immunisations. While it is true that a child with an underlying health condition is more likely to have complications and/or die from measles, healthy children can be very ill too. Allowing them to catch the diseases means that they run the risk of complications.

A few of these parents personally believed that the immunity derived from actually having the disease was more effective than immunity from vaccines. No immunisation is 100% effective but they do offer a high level of immunity from infectious diseases. Gaining immunity from actually having the disease involves the risk of a child developing a complication.

 

Has a personal belief that immunisations are no longer as important because the incidence of...

Has a personal belief that immunisations are no longer as important because the incidence of...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I believe there's some evidence that these diseases were actually beginning to die out and lessen anyway. And I personally feel that perhaps the, there should be education for parents in actually helping to boost the children's immune systems and actually putting energies into that and, and good hygiene and so on, so that the community benefits that way. I can, I can fully see, I know people have used the argument to say that, you know, 'Okay, so you're actually benefiting from us having our children immunised because that's keeping the disease rate lower'. But I've balanced that as I've said with the fact that I believe that the, that the diseases were, although still about, still around, people are getting them less anyway.

The occasional parent talked about their personal concern about the rise in the number of cases of asthma, other allergies and autism in the UK and were suspicious that immunisations were contributing to the rise of these illnesses. Some believed that the ingredients in vaccines were not safe for their child. One couple personally believed that immunisations were important for the majority of children but there were some children who should not be immunised.

 

Has a personal belief that immunisations might be preventing the immune system from working...

Has a personal belief that immunisations might be preventing the immune system from working...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Father' You know you're meant to have a peck of dirt a day just to keep that immune system ticking over, and one of these things that they think about these allergies and increase of asthma and eczema and all the rest of it, there's either one theory is that the immune system is being overworked because it's being made sensitive by these vaccines or it's being under worked because of the vaccine. So we have an immune system, presumably if we look after it correctly it should work, and these vaccines could be the dampening down the effect or aggravating, neither are entirely, advantageous.

 

Has a personal belief that it is better to support their son's immune system through diet & a...

Has a personal belief that it is better to support their son's immune system through diet & a...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Mother' So we're not, at least I'm not ruling it out forever. But I'm certainly ruling out what's available in its current form. Because I do think our child will be and you believe he would be at serious risk. We've had one child who's definitely had a profound reaction, that's going to affect him and family life for the rest of his and our lives. And frankly our older child we think escaped by a hair's breath, to be truthful. We're not about to take a chance with any more of them.  

This is our belief, the risk of far more adverse reaction from the vaccine is an awful lot greater. So you just support their immune system and we do believe profoundly in homeopathy as well. I would almost certainly, under the guidance of a professional highly qualified homeopathic, I'd probably try and treat the child homoeopathically, which is also supporting the immune system and that's actually aiding the immune system to fight off the disease, rather than artificially suppressing and dealing with the symptoms.

We try to make sure we're looking and I'm going to take further advice from our nutritionist as he gets older in terms of really, really good quality supplement agents to make sure that his immune system is supported as fully as it can be. But we're taking the approach to try not to be too afraid of letting him be ill. There really is a strain of thought that people shouldn't be ill at all and if you're not ill you're never going to build up an immune response. You're not actually going to build a healthy immune system. So we're trying to look at it that he's actually going to need to go through some illnesses to build up a healthy immune response and we're trying, we're trying to support his immune system so that he can fight off illness. 

And making sure that he has adequate nutrition, adequate, and given the state of fruit and vegetables now you have got to supplement I'm afraid because even organic food the soil is seriously denatured and our uptake of a lot of stuff is, a lot of vitamins and minerals used to come through the soil and the soil is so denatured that you're not going to get that. So you do need to look at good quality, and I'm afraid you're looking at more expensive supplements because they are more bio-available. So we are taking advice from our nutritionist. I've already taken advice from him, I'll be reviewing things as the baby gets older. 

Breast feeding is a very good way to confer immunity as well and this is a person who really has struggled with that one [laughs]. I didn't actually manage to feed the other two at all but I really, really, really tried hard and I managed with this baby. 

 

Have a personal belief that immunisations are good for the majority but should not be given to a...

Have a personal belief that immunisations are good for the majority but should not be given to a...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Our view, having done the research we've done, is that there are some children who should not have vaccinations at all. And I think those children, it may, it is a subgroup, but it's not clear to me is how big that subgroup is at the moment. I know many children who've had the triple jab, who've had other jabs without problems, and I perfectly accept that, you know, for many children it is fine. I would like to make sure that parents know what the side effects are and I do feel strongly that they're not informed about that.  

There are known side effects to all vaccinations. That's a stated fact and that's, you know, normally in the literature that should accompany any vaccination. So I think what we decided was that knowing the bowel problems our son had, had we felt that, that was really a contraindication for him having certainly the triple jab. But also after further research we decided that even the single measles jab would be too dangerous, based on his condition. And that was why we decided not to vaccinate any further at all. On the basis that we do believe that there are some children who should not have any vaccinations at all. For many it is fine, it is safe. We have a lot of friends who've come to me for advice on vaccination and I have said they have to make that choice themselves based on how well they feel their child is and whether, you know, they are able to take those vaccinations. So I'm certainly not dead set against vaccinations. I just think that parents should have all the information, know that there are actually side effects that can come from any vaccination, and obviously to make sure that if they are vaccinating their child that the child is in the best health state to take that vaccination. 


 

Last reviewed October 2015.
Last updated October 2015.

 

donate
Previous Page
Next Page