When Elyse was just four weeks old, Melissa unwittingly exposed her to three unvaccinated children.
Although Elyse was still a fortnight shy of immunisation age at that stage, Melissa couldn’t foresee any harm in attending the family birthday party.
But when Elyse broke out in mysterious spots just a week later, Melissa and partner Michael rushed her into a hospital isolation unit, fearing the worst.
Fortunately, as scary as Elyse’s symptoms were, the breakouts proved to be nothing more than a serious case of chickenpox, and today Elyse, above, is as normal as any bubbly, cheeky three-year-old can be.
But Melissa, who has chosen to share her story to launch World Immunisation Week and a Victorian government health campaign titled Immunity for Community, says she’s still feeling a lasting impact.
After being released from isolation care, Elyse and Melissa spent a further month in a mother-daughter unit as Melissa battled with post-natal depression.
“Today I’m still on anti-depressants; I felt like I’d failed to protect her,” a brave Melissa tells The Carousel.
Her message to us, and in the campaign video above, is clear – immunise your loved ones, to protect your children and the community at large.
“Okay, I have post-natal depression and she [Elyse] might have a few scars, but we are the lucky ones,” says Melissa.
“There are lot of kids out there who have lasting disabilities from not vaccinating.
“The risks from side effects are so low compared to the lasting long-term effects the diseases can have it’s ridiculous.
“Our job as a parent is to love, look after and protect – if there is something to help us do that, why wouldn’t you?
Currently in Australia, 92.8 per cent of children under five are fully vaccinated. This indicates high levels of protection for Australian children, however this still falls shy of the government’s target of 95 percent – which is the level of coverage needed to halt the spread of particularly virulent diseases such as measles.
Dr Margie Danchin, paediatrician at The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and key participant in the Victoria government’s new awareness videos, says everyone benefits when we all agree to keep each other safe.
“It’s important to understand that the most vulnerable in our community can’t always receive vaccines,” she says.
“Young babies, the elderly and those with lowered immunity rely on us to be vaccinated to protect them.
“Immunisation affects everybody. No matter who you are, your health and safety, to some degree, depends on the behaviour of those around you.”
Dr Danchin says that if parents are feeling overwhelmed by the information overload on immunisation, they should talk to a professional to help them make the most informed decision.
Immunity for Community highlights decisions to immunise taken by most Victorian parents and to encourage those with questions about immunisation to seek information from a medically qualified source such as their GP, paediatrician or a government website such as the Better Health Channel.