Christine Mosler is a parent blogger based in the UK, she blogs at Thinly Spread. Her blogs about vaccines and health workers have also appeared on The Gates Foundation and The UK Department for International Development websites.
This time last year my attitude to vaccination, like many people I know, was pretty blasé. I took it for granted. I am an English Mum to four children and when it came to having them immunised I did what most of my friends did and read up on all the ins and outs, chatted over coffee, debated whether or not their little immune systems were up to the influx and then booked them in for the full works without questioning my right to do so or my right to choose not to.
Then, out of the blue in April 2011, Save the Children UK contacted me and asked if I would travel with them to Mozambique to follow a vaccine along the cold trail from its arrival in the capital city right out to the leg of a small child in a rural village. They wanted me to blog about it as I went and to help raise awareness of the need for additional funding ahead of last year’s GAVI conference. With 1 in 5 children under five receiving no vaccinations whatsoever and with the majority of those children living in circumstances where vaccinations are literally the difference between life and death, my view of the whole process was turned on its head.
Mozambique is a beautiful country and I felt very privileged to sit on the back of a motorbike as a health worker drove me to the vaccine’s final destination. In April 7th village, a long way from the road, I met Dulce Costa and her mother and watched as the vaccine I had followed was administered to her at the health clinic under a tree in the blazing heat.
I went on to visit health clinics and hospitals throughout the region and it soon became very apparent to me why vaccination was so important. Women I met had travelled vast distances with their very poorly children, they had carried them for miles until they reached a road and then, spending money they could ill afford, had caught public transport to ill equipped, unsanitary hospitals to try and save the life of their children. Many of them didn’t succeed and most of those illnesses, killing those children and leaving their mothers bereft, are preventable.
When I got home to the UK I appeared on television and radio, visited DfID and Downing Street and met Bill Gates. I continued to call on people to sign the petition calling for the vaccine funding gap to be filled and, at the GAVI conference in June, enough money was pledged to do that.
I had ridden an incredible wave, which whisked me out of my comfort zone and made me challenge many of my preconceived ideas. It also meant that many people contacted me in support of the campaign and some in opposition. Vaccination in the UK and parts of Europe is a sticky issue. Many parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children, because they can, secure in the knowledge that there is medical assistance on hand, within reach. The women I saw didn’t have that ready availability of healthcare, didn’t have the luxury of choice; vaccination gives those children and their families a chance at life.
I have also become quite vocal when people at home question the necessity to vaccinate. Some people seem to have forgotten that diseases like measles are potentially life threatening and can have long lasting, debilitating or disabling effects on those who succumb. I can understand the worry many people feel about injecting vaccines into small people, I felt it myself, but not injecting them leaves them vulnerable. It also has a potential impact on the lives of others. With many vaccinations not available to babies under 12 months choosing not to vaccinate your child leaves those babies vulnerable too. That, to me, is wrong.
I no longer take vaccination for granted. I have four healthy, strapping children aged from 6 to 16 who haven’t had to fight off life threatening diseases like measles, because they are lucky and live here in the UK where immunisation is a right and I am very grateful.
Add a Comment