Spiderman fights bugs

Rachel Whittaker, left, Katie Brownwood and Isaac, two and half.
Rachel Whittaker, left, Katie Brownwood and Isaac, two and half.
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As whooping cough soars amid fears parents are not immunising their children superheroes are stepping in to arm our kids.

It’s a thumbs up from Carol Gilderdale’s grandson Harrison for the children’s vaccination campaign.

At three-years-old Harrison could be forgiven for feeling like a pin cushion. In his young life he’s had five-in-one super jabs, top up doses, boosters, and more, to protect him from a range of diseases once rife in Victorian times.

The fact that such outbreaks, in whooping cough and measles, are now front page news shows how much times have changed - and how complacent some parents may have become in taking their child’s health for granted. Or heeding unfounded but lingering fears relating to the safety of some vaccinations.

As far as Harrison’s concerned a little “ouch” is worth the allied treat - no longer a sweetie, with childhood obesity being another issue, but a super hero sticker. In his case Spiderman.

Now Harrison can’t wait for his next Spidie sticker. “It didn’t hurt,” he says of the jab. “Not much.”

Gran Carol is delighted with his response. They’re on the nursery run, Carol helping daughter Nicola out with Harrison and his two little sisters in the double buggy. All have had their vaccinations on time. “Nicola wouldn’t dream of missing them,” adds Carol.

Carol’s concerned the national whooping cough outbreak - along with measles on Merseyside - could mean diseases once responsible for a high rate of childhood mortality could come back.

“My generation didn’t take things for granted because our parents and grandparents remembered when children fell very ill very quickly. I’d urge parents today to make sure their children are immunised on time.”

That’s music to the ears to Donna Taylor, acting consultant nurse for public health for NHS Blackpool. New figures reveal Blackpool’s in line with national average for vaccinations, more than 90 per cent of kids protected within the first 12-13 months of life. But there’s a drop at around five years old - and that’s the crucial top-up and booster time with kids off to school and exposed to a host of health ails if unprotected. Other jabs are due for older kids,too.

Donna reminds parents that some diseases need the full schedule of vaccination. “You need repeated doses for full immunity, a one-off isn’t good enough, it’s vital parents ensure children have the full course.

“We find mums are really good in the first four months but when the kids are older, mums are often back at work, and it’s harder to make an appointment at the GP. We need constant reminders that children can become quite poorly - people have forgotten how serious measles and whooping cough can be.

“We do reasonably well in Blackpool but need to push to keep children immunised. If parents are uncertain talk to your GP or health visitor. All newborn have a hand held record, the Red Book, which outlines the schedule as well, all the milestones, the routine vaccinations.”

Health care professionals are being immunised too - along with pregnant women. The winter flu campaign now covers pregnant women and the whooping cough outbreak means more will be vaccinated to safeguard their babies health.

Donna adds: “We should remember it’s a privilege to have a safe vaccination programme free of charge. In some countries children still die as a result of easily avoidable diseases. In Africa mothers walk 50-60 miles to get their child vaccinated against meningitis.”

Three babies died of whooping cough in October in the biggest outbreak in 20 years. Thirteen babies under the age of three months (vaccines start at two months) have died as a result of the infectious disease this year. Confirmed cases stand at 7,728 and rising - 1,614 of them reported in October. Last year the TOTAL number was 819. “If that’s not food for thought, what is?” says Donna.

Katie Brownwood, 33, agrees. She has two children, aged five and two and works at Victoria Hospital as a cardiac clinical physiologist. “We had an adult with whooping cough the other day and took precautions accordingly.

“I make informed choices and trust the guidance in light of evidence in support of vaccination. I don’t want a return to the bad old days.

“I had a MMR jab myself at the same time as my daughter as it’s important health workers are immunised too.

“The worst thing for parents is holding down your children while they have their jabs. It’s worth it for peace of mind.”

Rachel Whittaker, 32, of Blackpool, mother of two, says two month old baby Esme is due her first five-in-one jab against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib, a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children).

“I get really angry at parents who don’t do it,” she admits. “They don’t just take risks with their child’s health but others too.”

Contact jacqui.morley@blackpoolgazette.co.uk or tweet her @jacquimorley