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vaccine Archives • HealthMint

Keeping Up To Date for World Immunisation Week

By | Children's Health, Immunisation

Keeping Up To Date for World Immunisation Week

 

A baby being kissed by his mother

World Immunisation Week is here, and it’s time to focus on vaccinations.  Around the world, more than 19 million children are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated. Australia has relatively high rates of vaccination, but there is still a minority of people who do not follow the recommended vaccination schedule.

In Australia, we’ve largely eliminated many once-common diseases through immunisation – but that doesn’t mean they can’t come back. Vaccines work, but we shouldn’t get complacent about illness. Let’s look at why it’s important to keep up-to-date.

Do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines are extremely effective at reducing disease, and are the safest and most cost-effective way to do so. Vaccines use our own immune systems to protect us. A weakened, dead or part of a virus or bacteria is introduced to the immune system. It’s too weak to actually infect us, but enough for our immune system to “learn” to fight it with specialised antibodies. If we encounter the real disease, our bodies will quickly recognise and destroy it, resulting in a mild version of the sickness or no infection at all.

It’s easy to feel like certain vaccines are unnecessary because we are used to living in a country that has spent decades attempting to eradicate serious diseases. However, just because there are fewer visible cases in the community doesn’t mean the disease has gone.

Are all Vaccines Really Necessary?

Some people avoid certain vaccines, believing them to be unnecessary. Measles is a good example of a sickness that people underestimate, and might avoid being immunised against. While for most people measles is a relatively mild (although unpleasant) illness, around 1 in 5,000 who get the virus will die. Other complications are hepatitis, meningitis, loss of vision, and complications for unborn children if a pregnant mother gets the disease.

In 2014, the WHO announced that measles was eliminated in Australia. Surely now we can stop vaccinating against it? Unfortunately not. As the recent measles outbreaks in various parts of Australia show, just because the disease has been eliminated in the Australian population does not mean it can’t be brought in from outside the country. When it is, a vaccinated population will make it much harder for an epidemic to spread.

Could Improved Hygiene Explain Disease Reduction?

Some people believe that reduction in serious diseases is not a result of vaccinating, but rather just because we as a society have become cleaner and more aware of diseases. Chicken pox is the best example of why this is not the case.

The vaccine for varicella (which causes chicken pox) has only been available since the mid-1990s. In the early 1990s, before the vaccine became available, the U.S. had about four million cases of chicken pox per year. By 2004, cases of chicken pox had dropped by 85%. Hygiene practices had not changed significantly in that time – only immunisation could explain such a drastic improvement.

What You Can Do

The most important job is to make sure that you and your family are up-to-date on their vaccinations. The Australian Childhood Immunisation Register has information on what your child has already had, and what they might need. If you have fallen behind, you can talk to your doctor about a catch-up schedule.

Getting vaccinated is absolutely vital for the health of your family and the wider community. If you have questions, your GP can answer them and point you in the right direction for accurate, trustworthy information. Vaccines work, and it’s up to each individual to keep ourselves and vulnerable people around us protected.

 

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss immunisation –>

Stay Safer This Flu Season

By | Children's Health, General Wellbeing, Immunisation

 Stay Safer This Flu Season

Flu season is coming! The influenza virus is always around, but the colder months of the year make us all huddle in together and makes it easier for the virus to spread. From April to October, the number of cases of influenza rise dramatically in Australia. Sometimes when people get a cold they call it “the flu”, but influenza is more than just a nasty cold – last year alone it was responsible for the deaths of 1,000 Australians.

There are a few safeguards we can put into place to help reduce the chances of getting the flu this flu season.

Basic Hygiene

Let’s start with the basics – one of the best ways of protecting yourself is the things we already know. Without becoming a “germaphobe”, it’s important to be aware of how we can pick up and transfer germs from one place to another – and how to break the cycle.

  • You’ve been washing your hands since you were little, but it might be time to revisit your technique. Make sure you’re washing each part of your hands (backs, palms, in between your fingers) with plenty of soap and hot water for at least the length of time it takes to sing “happy birthday” under your breath.
  • Use disposable tissues wherever possible and bin them straight away, and cover your whole mouth and nose whenever you cough or sneeze.
  • Try to keep your hands away from your face as much as possible – including rubbing your nose, eyes and mouth.
  • Clean surfaces regularly, especially when they’re high use such as door knobs, telephones and keyboards.
  • Lastly, flu season is not the time to share – make sure you wash cups, plates and cutlery thoroughly before using them.Stay

Get Vaccinated.

There is a whole lot of misinformation that circulates about the flu vaccine – with some people saying it can give you the flu, or that it doesn’t work. The truth is, while it’s not perfect, the flu vaccine is one of the best defences we have to protect ourselves against the flu.

The flu vaccine is less effective than other vaccines because of the nature of influenza. The virus mutates and changes regularly, and there are a number of viruses responsible. In your flu vaccine is protection against the 3 or 4 most likely strains to be around based on evidence from past seasons and from other countries. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than nothing.

Not only does your flu vaccine help protect you from getting infected with an influenza virus, if you do get the virus your symptoms are likely to be less severe and go away quicker, with less risk of extra complications. That’s well worth the small investment in getting the vaccine.

Many people confuse a bad cold with the flu, but influenza can be much more serious, causing hospitalisation and even death in sometimes otherwise healthy people. If you come down with an illness, it’s important to do everything you can to avoid spreading it and to see a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve over a few days. Through this flu season, keep yourself safe and do your part to protect others from this nasty strain of viruses.

 

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss the flu ->

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