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The Reasons Why Should Parents Vaccinate Their Child

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Imagine you are a parent, watching your child suffer and quickly deteriorate from a condition such as measles which could have been easily preventable. How would you feel knowing they might not survive due to your decision to not vaccinate them and should parents vaccinate their child ?

While the majority of children in NZ are fully vaccinated (up to date with their age appropriate vaccines as set out by the NZ Ministry of Health), vaccinations in NZ are not required by law and remain the individual choice of the parents, meaning there are a small number of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. For example, in September 2019, the percentage of children not fully vaccinated was: 21% for 6 month old children, 9% for 2 year old children and 12% for 5 year old children. When children are not fully vaccinated, this leaves them and others at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases such as measles. Although some parents do not believe vaccinating their children is the best choice for them, there are a multitude of reasons why parents should vaccinate their children and organisations such as the World Health Organization, The New Zealand Ministry of Health and Plunket also agree.

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Children should be vaccinated because it protects them from serious diseases which can have life changing consequences and, in some cases, can result in loss of life.

Plunket recommends that children are vaccinated against 12 diseases.

One of which is measles, “kidshealth.org.nz” states measles as being the most common vaccine-preventable cause of death among children throughout the world. Measles is a serious disease which is extremely contagious because it is caused by a virus which can be spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks and thus infects the air which other people also breath in. People who touch the same surfaces that an infected person previously touched may also be at risk of catching the measles virus.

Measles affects people in different ways, some people will only have short term consequences while others will experience long term consequences or death. According to the NZ Ministry of Health, around 1 in 10 people who catch measles require hospital treatment, while Kids Health NZ states that between 1 – 3 out of 1000 people with measles die. Some of the short term complications of measles include seizures, diarrhoea, corneal ulcers and pneumonia. However, measles can also have long term complications for some people, including permanent hearing loss and brain swelling. While brain swelling is rare and only affects around 1 in 1000 people with measles, it can cause permanent brain damage and in some cases death. 15 in 100 people who experience brain swelling die and around 30 in 100 suffer permanent brain damage. On top of this, people are still at risk even years after having measles, as around 1 in 100,000 people will die as a result of delayed brain inflammation which is known as “subacute sclerosing panencephalitis”.

In 2019, NZ had over 2100 cases of measles and according to the NZ Herald, this was the worst measles outbreak NZ has experienced in over 22 years. Meanwhile Samoa also experienced an outbreak, where there were more than 5552 cases of measles and 79 deaths.

The only way a person can be prevented from catching measles is by being vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. Usually 2 doses of the MMR vaccine are required for a person to have the most effective protection from measles. Normally, a child will receive their first dose when they are 15 months old and their second when they are 4 years old. 95 out of 100 people are protected from catching measles after their first dose, and this increases to 99 out of 100 people after their second dose. This goes to show that many of the cases and deaths in both the NZ and Samoa measles outbreaks could have been prevented if the effected people had been vaccinated previously.

Now that you’re aware of some of the consequences of measles, why would you not want to vaccinate your child in order to prevent them from contracting a life threatening disease? 

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