As many of you know I am an anxiety sufferer. While I have mostly got it under control, the one thing that still gives it power is my daughter’s health. Like most babies, she had a torrent of constant illness as her immune system was developing, in particular ear infections (15 in about 8 months). She also had the hand, foot & mouth virus, urticaria (we had a night in hospital for that one), croup, constant colds and viral rashes. While all this is perfectly normal for babies/toddlers, being a first time mum with anxiety issues it made me a nervous wreck. I most definitely was not prepared for the amount of illness that would occur, and my picture perfect vision of my beautiful, rosy cheeked bouncing baby was shattered. Man, how naive was I?
While it is commonplace for parents to worry about their kids, especially when they’re ill, I was in full blown panic mode. I wouldn’t sleep a wink when she had a cold/cough, because I was convinced it would lead to something worse like pneumonia. I was obsessed with the thermometer when she had a temperature, would flinch every time I heard a sound on the baby monitor, would constantly check on her through the night, and would frantically type her symptoms into google, convinced it was something more sinister.
Thankfully as she’s grown older (she’ll be three next month) she is nowhere near as bad. They do grow out of it (as my doctor said she would, but I didn’t believe her), and her immune system is definitely better at fighting things off. I am a LOT less anxious about her being ill, after all, it’s actually a good thing in the long term, but the one thing that still frightens me to my very core is bacterial meningitis. Even just typing it here has made me shiver. I was always aware of it (my aunty had it twice), and have been on high alert ever since Molly was born. I was beside myself when she got her first viral rash (I never even knew they existed), as I presumed any rash was attributed to Men.b. When little Faye Burdett died in February last year of this horrendous disease, my anxiety levels shot through the roof. Those images of her lying in a hospital bed covered head to toe in that awful rash will haunt me forever. I cannot begin to comprehend the living nightmare her poor parents are living with every day.
The fact that, fortunately, bacterial meningitis is very rare (about 3200 cases each year in the UK), did nothing to calm my anxious mind. Babies and children under 5 are the most at risk with over 50% of all cases occurring in this age group, and the prognosis if they do catch it is not good. 1 in 10 sufferers will die, while it is estimated that up to 1 person in every 2 or 3 who survive is left with one or more permanent problems including loss of limbs, learning difficulties, recurrent seizures and hearing loss. You’re more likely to get it through a head trauma, but another cause is ear infections as the bacteria can spread from the inner ear to the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. This is not something I wanted to read considering how susceptible to them Molly is. I wanted her vaccinated, and quickly.
The Men B vaccine was introduced in the U.K. from September 2015. Babies born on or after 1st July 2015 were offered the vaccine as part of the routine immunisation schedule, but those born prior to this date missed out. After little Faye died, it sparked a huge outcry across the country to include all children under 11 in the free MenB vaccination programme, with an online petition reaching nearly a million signatures (mine included). However, parliament rejected the idea so the only way to get her protected was to pay privately. Due to the high demand however, there was a worldwide shortage of the vaccine itself, so we had to wait months for an appointment. Boots finally emailed me towards the end of the summer last year, and I booked her in. Ironically though, I had to rebook it a few times as Molly was ill! While the guidelines state that they can still have the vaccine if they’ve got a cold, I just didn’t want to risk it. I rebooked it 3 times in total for various reasons, and then the anxious thoughts started…
‘Maybe rebooking it this many times is a sign’
‘What if she has a bad reaction to it like the MMR, but worse?’
‘The vaccine hasn’t been around for that long, what if there are side effects that no one knows about?’
‘The chances of her getting bacterial meningitis are low, shall I just leave it?’
‘But what if I don’t get it done and then she gets meningitis, I’d never forgive myself’
The night before the appointment I spent a good couple of hours googling the side effects, and posted a desperate message on my Netmums group asking for advice. Even on the morning of the appointment I was second guessing myself. Anxiety is so draining at times and, for me, being unable to make decisions is the worst part of it. Parenting is constantly asking yourself whether you’ve made the right choice though, so all we can really do is trust our instincts. In the end I knew I was doing the right thing getting her vaccinated.
We had it done in Boots and the pharmacist was lovely. She came in with an iPad for Molly with Peppa Pig on YouTube to distract her. She explained all about meningitis, the vaccine itself (Bexsero) and all it’s possible side effects. I told her how anxious I was (Molly was blissfully unaware), but she totally put my mind at rest. She said that she had administered thousands of doses, and had never heard of any serious side effects from it. At the most, she said, Molly would have a sore arm and might get a bit of a temperature during the night.
Molly hardly even flinched as the needle went in, and it was over in seconds. I took her out for a babyccino afterwards, and she seemed absolutely fine up until the evening. She was a bit upset saying her arm was hurting, and then she woke up after a couple of hours really crying. She was sweating quite a bit so I gave her calpol and brought her into bed with me. I must admit I was on tenterhooks, constantly checking on her, as she kept making this little whimpering noise throughout the night. I just kept telling myself that at least the vaccine had worked, and, as always, she was right as rain in the morning. She did complain of a sore arm for a few days afterwards, but other than that she’s been absolutely fine. The only thing I’m concerned about is her having the booster in 2 months’ time as she’ll know what’s coming!
The vaccine itself costs £110 for each dose, and it is worth every penny. All I feel now is relief, and I am so glad that she is now immunised against this terrifying disease. Not only have I protected my daughter, but I have given myself peace of mind, which is priceless. It’s just one less thing to worry about. While I still worry when she’s ill, I dont get anxious about it anymore. This is partly down to the fact that I manage my anxiety a lot better these days, and the fact that Molly is older now so I’m more used to it. Obviously we were in a position to be able to pay privately, but there are still thousands of families who are not. For this reason I still strongly believe that it should be made available for all children, let’s hope the government sees sense in the future.
Have you had your child vaccinated privately for MenB? How were they afterwards? Or did you decide not to? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.