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I’m a First-Time Mom: Here’s What I Learned From This Free Vaccine Information Service

Get your questions answered by a non-judgmental expert.

By Glynnis Mapp
I’m a First-Time Mom: Here’s What I Learned From This Free Vaccine Information Service
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My daughter was born last year and, since then, my husband and I have been sponges for information about infants: what and how to feed her, how to make sure she reaches her developmental goals and, especially, how to protect her from getting seriously sick. But researching vaccines online can be overwhelming and websites can be rife with misinformation.

My daughter had all of the vaccinations recommended by doctors but I had fears and doubts and wanted to know more. So I booked an appointment with  MIIKOVAC,  a free service that’s dedicated to sharing scientifically-backed information about immunization.

What it was like to speak to a MIIKOVAC expert 

The process was easy: a quick multiple-choice quiz on the MIIKOVAC website took to me a scheduling page where I booked a free 40-minute video call. Once the call began, I was met by Marion, a friendly-looking remote immunization counsellor at MIIKOVAC.

“It’s not easy being a parent. At MIIKOVAC, we try to be empathetic and offer a non-judgmental approach,” said Marion, who has more than 40 years of experience in community health care. “We have science-based information and studies to support what we are sharing. Ultimately it’s up to parents to decide what they want to do and whether they want to vaccinate their child.”

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Which vaccinations do babies get in Canada?

For many years now, we have been fortunate to live in an environment where vaccine-preventable diseases are mostly a thing of the past. So why are vaccines still important? Marion patiently explained each disease contained in the vaccines. I now have a better understanding of what diphtheria, tetanus, rotavirus and poliomyelitis are and I learned more about whooping cough, haemophilus influenzae type B and pneumococcus, which can cause severe illness in infants and children. Vaccines protecting against meningitis, measles, mumps and rubella are also a part of the schedule because these viruses can cause serious brain damage and developmental issues. Marion added that measles epidemics are starting to appear all over the world and, because of the virus's highly contagious nature, 95 percent of the population needs to be immunized to achieve herd immunity, which is far from the percentage currently vaccinated, even in Canada.

I’m a First-Time Mom: Here’s What I Learned From This Free Vaccine Information Service

Should I expose my child to chickenpox?

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Some parents think that kids should naturally build their immune systems by contracting and fighting viruses. Many of us are familiar with the idea of chickenpox parties and which I’ve been hearing about again. But there are risks and side effects associated with any virus: chickenpox (also known as varicella) can cause complications like pneumonia, swelling of the brain and bloodstream infections.

According to MIIKOVAC, “The two recommended doses of varicella vaccine are 98.3 percent efficacious. It means that for every 100 people who get exposed to varicella virus after vaccination, 1.7 people will still get it. For those that do get the virus, symptoms are likely to be much milder than if they had not been vaccinated at all.”

Should I let my child have the HPV vaccine?

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Parents are also talking about the human papillomavirus vaccines, which protect against various forms of cancer of the genitals and reproductive organs of boys and girls. HPV9 (Gardasil) protects against nine types of HPV and is recommended for young boys and girls. HPV2 (Cervarix) protects against two types of HPV and is recommended mostly for young girls. Unfortunately, many young women still die every year from cervical cancer, even in Canada. Children in Quebec can receive the vaccine in the fourth grade of primary school; in Ontario, shots are available starting in Grade 7.  While this may seem young for kids who are not even sexually active, it’s a part of proactive disease prevention. 

Marion said that it’s up to parents and carers to decide what is best for their children. MIIKOVAC’s service is about supporting people with their questions about vaccines and giving them resources to make the right decision for their families. “Parents can rest assured that vaccines have been vetted and are safe to administer. They have all been through thorough safety testing.”

How do I prepare my baby for their vaccinations?

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I get nervous before my daughter’s vaccination appointments so I asked Marion how to prepare to ensure the whole family feels calm and confident. “Parents can do a lot to help their children feel more at ease about vaccinations. In the end, your children are looking to you for support,” said Marion.

“Take deep breaths, or try some gentle and supportive holding techniques to keep them from moving around too much. Breastfeeding, bottle feeding or using toys to distract them can also help. These little things can make the whole process a lot easier.” And if you need someone to come with you to the appointment or need help from a nurse or practitioner, don’t be afraid to ask.

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Do you have vaccination questions you want answered? Visit the MIIKOVAC website and take the survey to schedule your free consultation

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