Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

March 7, 2011

When vaccinations go wrong

A few weeks ago, the forms arrived home from school requesting permission for our child to be given the 5-year-old booster vaccinations for MMR and the 4-in-1 (Diptheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Polio).

We thought long and hard about whether to give our consent or not. Does he *really* need these vaccinations? What exactly is he being protected against? How likely is he to contract one of these diseases? I'm maybe being terribly naive but given that he is a robust, healthy child (hasn't even had a bad cough or cold for the last 18 months at least), my instinct tells me that he will be OK without the need to inject a load of gunk into his body.

But, I'm no doctor and don't have all the facts, so after researching the risks, what exactly is in these vaccines and weighing up the pros and cons we decided to go ahead and have the vaccinations.

The day after the vaccinations, the arm which he'd had the 4-in-1 vaccine in had swollen to twice it's normal size, was stiff and painful, hot to touch and very red. My child is 5. His arms are skinny, pale little limbs. The arm he now had looked like it belonged to a 12 yr old who had been pumping iron at the gym.
We were advised that it would have gone down the following day. Far from it: the swelling spread down the entire arm. The pictures below don't really show how red and swollen the affected arm was, compared to the unaffected arm (where he's had the MMR vaccine), but might give you an idea.

The affected arm is on the left of the screen, the normal arm on the right.

After several worrying days, a trip to the doctor, 90 euros of medical expenses, an antibiotic and an antihistamine, the swelling started to reduce. The arm is finally, now, back to normal. He clearly had a severe reaction to something in the vaccine. We are still not sure exactly what he reacted to.

Of course we want to do everything we can to protect our children from disease and I suppose that is why we are encouraged to give our children these routine vaccinations. How real is the threat of diptheria, polio and some of the other diseases our children are being immunised against in 2011 in Ireland? I'm still not really sure. But we can't help feeling we made the wrong decision in going ahead with the vaccinations and are angry that our perfectly healthy, normal child was made to suffer for something which should be routine and harmless.

What do you think? Do you go ahead with the recommended, routine vaccinations without questioning them, or do you have similar concerns?



  1. Sorry you had such a bad experience with this - it's horrible to think we are in any way responsible for putting our children through any unnecessary pain. However, I firmly believe the benefits of the vaccine far out way the risks - if your child had this reaction to the vaccine image what the reaction might be if he actually caught the disease? I don't really know if it works that way but I don't think you should feel at all guilt about the choice you made. x

  2. Aaaah! I just sent in those forms and my 5 YO will get the vaccine soon....he's never had a reaction to any other vaccinne, but what if?? My guess is that, on balance, you made the right choice. I'd say getting measles would be worse than an allergic reaction. If everyone doesn't vaccinate, it gives the disease an open door to get back into the population.

  3. I talk about this topic a lot, I'm such a believer in vaccines. My kids have both had all their shots, some twice (oops!). If you've ever cared for a once healthy child who is now hovering near death because of a vaccine preventable disease, it gives some perspective. Don't for one second doubt your choice!

  4. It's horrible having to put them through it isn't it? I haven't had to deal with any nasty physical reactions, but emotional ones. My daughter took a long time to forgive me for the shock of her pre school booster. She also pushed the nurse for giving her then baby brother a shot.
    My Dad always puts it in perspective for me, so many of these diseases are forgotten in our generation, but for his they are some very real and horrible memories.
    Hope he is on the mend, must have been worrying.
    hope you get some den buidling done, thanks for your lovely comment!

  5. It's such a shame your son had such a reaction to the vaccines, but, like your other commenters, I think that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the drawbacks, even in this case.

    These diseases are killers and we need to ensure that enough children are vaccinated to keep the diseases at bay. This is important for everyones children, but most important for those children who have other underlying health issues and whos immune system is already comprimised. Whilst healthy children might be able to usually fight off measles (or whatever) they may also pass it onto a less healthy child for whom it might prove fatal. Ella from Notes From Home wrote a really great post about this about a year ago.

    I think you should talk to the Doctor about what might have caused the reaction as it is clearly abnormal and make sure that it isn't a sign of other allergies. x

  6. What a horrible and frightening experience. However, I agree with the comments above - that the benefits outweighs the risks and the more people opt not to have them, the greater risk there is that these diseases will become much more prevalent. Having seen someone almost lose their child to measles, I gave both my children the shots - the first one was when the huge MMR report came out which has since been discredited and it was hardly out fo the news.

    I would agree with Pants - maybe get them checked out to see what could have caused such a reaction.

  7. All your commenters speak sense to me. We agonised over it for our boys; I once counted up how many vaccines they got in the first year or so and it amounted to around 22 or thereabouts, and was horrified. However, it is still possible to catch many of these diseases, especially with the amount of foreign travel we all do now. Combine that with mobile populations and you start to understand why a very expensive nursery in Knightsbridge that friends of mine had their kids at a couple of years back had an outbreak of TB. So yes, it's dreadful your son reacted. But I still think you did the right thing.

  8. Your poor son (and poor you.) Shocker.

    My daughter Lexie has hers about 6 months ago - in Australia this same booster is completed at aged four. She cracked the shits with me as she had not anticipated the instant pain of two big needles, but aside from that, was fine.

    My fears arise from the anecdotal link between immunisations and autism. I know that many very large research studies have been done and these show there is no causative link between any immunisation and autism, I have read enough to still have that fear.

    I feel that with all my three children I ran the gauntlet with all of their vaccinations and was very, very lucky.

  9. Oh the poor lad. It does seem a lot to give them in one go doesn't it. I remember when my daughter had them.

    I think my view has changed a little since travelling to Cameroon and seeing how desperate they are for vaccines like tetanus and how many young lives are lost because they don't have access to the medicines we have. And I know you know all about the campaign too, Hazel. I still think it's a lot of vaccines to have in one go and it's unlikely any of our children will come into contact with such rare diseases, but I can't help thinking they are rare because we have these vaccines. So in that respect we are lucky.

    Hope he's feeling better soon xx

  10. I'm so sorry your little man has had to go through this. It's a really tough call and I don't think whatever we decide we are truly happy with what we do. I'm one for thinking that the benefits of having the jabs far outweigh the risks involved in not having them so we have gone for all the vaccines.

    I know when the swine flu vaccine was offered to the under 5's when it first came out we agonised over it for ages. I had my MIL sticking her oar in too trying to push us to not let her have it - infact my MIL reduced me to tears one day (but then I'm used to that!). In the end we decided to get her vaccinated and I'm glad we did.

    Hope he's back to his usual self soon x

  11. Hi Hot cross mum.
    Sorry to hear about your little man..good to know he is doing better.
    Agonising over whether or not to have these injections is par for the course...been there, done that, still doing it.
    But, I think, like other posters have commented, on balance and all things considered, we are better to go for them than skip them.

  12. The poor wee thing...but... having worked for UNICEF for years, and havng travelled all over the world seeing first hand the damage to young lives who don't have access to these vaccines, I know you made the right choice. Hopefully he got a big treat for all his woes!

  13. My aunt had polio and is immobile from the waist down. Measles is a horrid disease and the infection rates were rising (are they still?). We have all forgotten how dreadful the diseases are and the devastating affects they can have. Herd immunisation not only protects your son but helps protect those that can't have the jab. How horrid he had such a reaction though. I remember reading about an allergy to it. Was it egg or gluten? Something quite everyday that means if you have that intolerance you shouldn't have it. Maybe there is another underlying allergy going on? Hope he feels better now xxx

  14. Vaccines are life savers, but they are going to test a little immune system. It is good to make sure your child is not at all sick before getting them. We have been warned against getting vaccines that are combos. Or too many all at once. It can overwhelm an immune system.
    That said, vaccinating your child doesn't just help you and your family. It helps families like mine as well.

  15. Thank you all for your very helpful, reassuring and supportive comments - it really does help. He is completely fine now thank goodness.

  16. I lived first hand with the ravages of polio and it's not even worth the risk. Although they seem like "old" diseases to us these days, they are still well and truly raging in some parts of the world and given the amount of international travel now, anyone anywhere can get them. You made the right choice and a histamine reaction, while upsetting and probably painful, is nothing to the disease you're seeking to prevent.
    The thing that many parents don't realise, is by not vaccinating their children (even against measles) they are putting all children at risk. The incidence of measles is on the rise because of this, and people forget that it can be deadly.

  17. Hi Jody here, nice to meet you. Agree with Expat Mum above. We're only a generation away from polio and other diseases. It is incredibly difficult now to imagine this. Many here in US are concerned their child has autism through receiving too many immunisations at once. I planned to spread my kids out - but in the end didn't have the time, patience and energy to come back again and again. Story of my life of parenting....

  18. As a vet I know that a vaccination reaction means a nice big reaction by a healthy immune system. It's a good thing really , as it means lots of lovely immunity.
    Swelling and temperatures do occur in a fair amount of children after vaccinations but it's to be expected because thats how vaccinations work.
    Some children will have very severe reactions to them but very rarely are the reactions worse than disease itself.
    IMO Vaccinations are always worthwhile.

  19. so what it's just a local reaction. Quit being a hypochondriac

  20. we are having exactly the same - today the swelling spread down the entire arm. . Tomorrow morning will be 3 days after injection. My son is 3 y.o. (UK) Today I started antihistamine drops and cream. I read that some children, especially with any allergic it's good idea to start antihistamine 3 days before vaccination.


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