It is Autumn and GPs surgeries everywhere are busy vaccinating. As well as normal childhood immunisations and seasonal flu we are vaccinating pregnant mums against Whooping Cough. The Health Protection Agency has reported a big rise in Whooping Cough cases and in measles.
Whooping cough affects small babies particularly badly but babies can not make a proper immune response till about 8 weeks. The only way to protect the very young is to vaccinate mothers and a small amount of immunity will cross the placenta to the baby.
I work in affluent South West London which has some of the worst uptake rates. My Practice is predominately middle class and educated and such patients are more likely to exercise their right to refuse to vaccinate their children. However other patients such as a pregnant lady I spoke to today complain bitterly that refusal to immunise is responsible for the increased incidence of serious, preventable diseases. Parents who refuse will put her new born baby and others at greater risk because of the increased prevalence of diseases such as Whooping cough.
Should we have compulsory vaccinations as they do in the USA? Perhaps it is no coincidence that the only disease to be eradicated was smallpox – vaccination against which was compulsory.
ANSWER NEXT WEEK