You might not think of yourself as a herd animal. But you are. You’re a member of your community. Part of the herd.
You have a social responsibility to protect yourself, which in turn helps to protect other members of your community. People with compromised immune systems, the elderly and newborn babies too young to be vaccinated benefit from the system known as herd immunity.
What is herd immunity?
Herd immunity is a level of protection, for the members of our community who can’t be immunised, that takes place when a significant percentage of the population have been vaccinated.
As the Department of Health says:
An important feature of immunisation is that it brings benefits not only for the individual who receives the vaccine, but also for the entire population through a concept known as herd immunity, sometimes also called community immunity.
If enough people are immunised and protected from a disease, the infection will not be able to spread. This protects the population as a whole from infection. Herd immunity is important for those who cannot receive vaccinations. These include children who are too young to be vaccinated, people with immune system problems and those too ill to receive vaccines.
The proportion of the population which must be immunised in order to achieve herd immunity varies for each disease but can be up to 95% for some highly infectious diseases, such as measles. The underlying principle is the same: once enough people are protected, they help to protect vulnerable members of the community by reducing the spread of disease.
Why I’m anti anti-vax
I’m completely in favour of immunisation. I believe in science. Any arguments presented by people opposed to vaccination (known as “anti-vaxxers” or, as I like to refer to them, “nutters”) have been completely and utterly debunked.
I’m vehemently against the anti-vax movement. It makes me furious. They say that everyone has the right to an opinion. That’s right. But there is no right to have your opinions accepted as fact.
Quite simply, you don’t have the right to an opinion when you’re wrong! There is no debate. There is no other side to the story. There is no opposing view. There is scientific fact and then there’s loony town.
You might have read on my Facebook Page that Boyo was very ill when we were on holiday in Uluru. We went straight to the doctor when we returned, as he just hadn’t got any better. This kid almost never gets sick. When he does, he kicks it quickly. It’s like his ninja skill. When it comes to matters of health, I err on the side of caution. I’d rather be called a hypochondriac than hear “I wish you’d come in sooner”.
We had the sinking feeling that it might be whooping cough as a family friend had recently had a diagnosis. We weren’t convinced though, as he was kinda missing a key symptom – the whoop!
The treatment protocol is 5 days of antibiotics and isolation. If any family members are in their third trimester of pregnancy, on immuno-suppressant drugs or attend daycare (workers or kids), they are also required to undergo treatment. Boyo’s least favourite part was the required swab up the nose for testing.
The GP recommended that I have a booster jab. I’m now also protected against tetanus and diphtheria. Handy!
I have to be honest. The jab really knocked me sideways. Four days later, my arm was still sore at the injection site. I spent a whole day and night feeling like death warmed up – and badly at that. I was absolutely freezing. I just couldn’t get warm. I struggled to keep my eyes open. I also had a thumping headache, runny nose and the sneezles. I knew I was sick when I couldn’t even be bothered turning on the laptop.
But I’d do it all again, if I had to. It’s part of my social contract as a human being. It was my body doing what it was supposed to do – having an immune reaction.
As Boyo is fully immunised, he only got a mild dose of whooping cough. It didn’t seem very mild when he was running a 40 degree temperature, coughing until he was gasping for breath and vomiting. I knew he was sick when he slept in and refused food. I know right?!
Poor old Boyo has had a pretty rotten school holidays. Ask him – he’ll tell you. “Worst holidays ever”. He was keen to go back to school for some fun!
His grandparents visited from the UK during the holidays. He hadn’t seen them since he was 6 years old – five years ago. He has missed out on lots of time with them because of his illness, and once we realised what it is, his quarantine. That’s just not fair. Especially when you’re a kid.
A week after he got all the all clear and had been happily back at school for the week, I started a cough on Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, I took myself straight to the doctors. I got swabbed and elected to take the medication straight away, rather than wait for the results and then take it. This saved me an extra four or five days of isolation, as I also tested positive to whooping cough.
As so many people are testing positive to whooping cough without the typical “whoop”, here’s my advice. Got a cough? Get a swab. I really didn’t think I had whooping cough. I had a temperature, a runny nose and sneezles, and a relatively mild cough. I got tested because I was following the GP’s instruction after Boyo’s diagnosis. Any symptoms, any symptoms at all, had to be taken seriously.
Most of us know that immunisation isn’t a guarantee – just a level of protection. But why wouldn’t you protect your children, your family, those who can’t be immunised in your community? Why wouldn’t you do absolutely everything you could?