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Kerry McLean: How my son's chicken pox experience taught me a lesson on value of vaccination


Kerry’s son Dan is ready for his first day of the school term

Kerry’s son Dan is ready for his first day of the school term

Kerry’s son Dan is ready for his first day of the school term

This week has been insanely busy in our house. The youngest started full-time nursery, my 11-year-old moved to big school and the eldest went into Year 10 (or third year if, like me, you can't get your head around the new numbering system).

I'm delighted to say that it all went off remarkably easily and, yes, I have the photos of each of them posing by the front door to prove it.

I know there are those who loathe the onslaught of first-day-back photos that appear on social media, but I love seeing all the wee scrubbed faces with their ironed, unstained uniforms and their polished shoes.

I, like all those other parents, need to share those photos, not purely to mark the passage of time and show how our babies are growing up, but also because we know that this is the first and last time our children will look as neat and tidy all year.

It's also, more than likely, the first and last time that they bring all the uniform home intact. By the end of the first month we're missing at least one jumper and have somehow gained a set of un-named PE shorts and a shirt or two.

One thing I can happily claim is that while I may have all the organisational ability of a hyperactive puppy, my kids never cross the threshold of their school without every item of clothing being labelled.

It may not seem like much of a claim to fame but, as any mum knows, the chore of naming all those items of uniform can seem endless.

When my lot first began their education, I used the sew on labels. I felt like I was single-handedly recreating the Bayeux Tapestry.

By the time I'd finished, my fingers were covered in puncture wounds, where I'd mistakenly and repeatedly stuck myself with the needle and my eyes felt like they were about to permanently cross from staring at my stitching.

Then, a friend told me her secret, a secret which has saved me hours ever since and I'm delighted to share it all with you today.

Buy a great, big black permanent marker and just scrawl their name on everything. Takes seconds, lasts all year and while it may not be the prettiest solution, who cares when it's on the inside? Certainly not me when I'm kicking back on the sofa instead of looking for the plasters for my pock-marked fingers.

Talking about needles, our final back-to-school preparations included a visit to the doctor to get my youngest her second MMR jab.

It's never pleasant, taking your child to get injections, but I think this vaccination is a particularly emotive one.

Despite knowing that the link between the jab and autism, put forward by NHS consultant Andrew Wakefield 20 years ago, has been discredited, with his findings found to be "utterly false" after a four-year investigation by the General Medical Council, there's still a kernel of anxiety around these shots for many parents, including me.

What proved much more scary for me was the news that in the last week that the World Health Organisation has revoked the UK's status as measles-free.

Last year there were four times as many children who were diagnosed as having the disease, and I couldn't live with myself if the means were there for my baby to avoid catching it and I didn't insure her health with a jab.

When my son was seven he had the chicken pox. His big sister had it a few years before and got off with a bit of a cold and a smattering of spots. My son wasn't so lucky.

He had spots everywhere - in his ears, on his eyelids, even inside his mouth. Our doctor put him on a very strong dose of antibiotics as he developed an infection from scratching the tiny, itchy blisters and it broke my heart to see how ill and in pain he was.

There is no medicine that I can give my daughter to prevent her catching chicken pox in the future, but my experience with my son made the decision to give her the MMR injection an easy one

Belfast Telegraph