Katie lives in a community in Western Australia variously described as ‘alternative’, ‘hippy’ and ‘crusty’. Depending on who’s using the terms, these labels can be taken as a mild insult or a badge of honour.
It’s a tight-knit community with a strong identity that shares a broad range of values. Breastfeeding is encouraged, organic food is preferred and people are concerned about their environment and one another.
But while the science that supports breast-feeding and climate change is taken as read, immunisation had fallen out of fashion – deemed to be unnatural, even unnecessary by some.
As a new mother, Katie was worried. To her mind, vaccines are not only safe and effective but fit perfectly well with communitarian values. Yet she felt like she was in the minority.
“I was the only voice for vaccines in that room, and it became a tearful one. I was not merely upset by the social isolation. My primary emotion was fear for the well-being of my baby son, coupled with a sense of grief that I might have to ditch my new friends in order to keep him safe. At that moment, the seed was planted for this campaign,” she says.
Katie’s campaign brought together like-minded parents from the local community and let them share their story.
Read why Andrew needs high immunise rates to protect his child – and his wife.
As part of the ‘I Immunise’ campaign in Western Australia, real parents stepped up to tell their friends and neighbours that their children are vaccinated – and that this is entirely compatible with other values which they hold dear.
It’s a point best made in Katie’s own words. Here is a short extract from Katie’s testimony on ‘I Immunise’:
“I have never been worried about vaccines. For as long as I can remember, I knew that when I had children, I would immunise them. It never occurred to me that vaccines were not responsible for the amazing leaps forward in public health that have either fully or partly eradicated diseases like smallpox, polio and measles.
I knew people who didn’t immunise their children, and I didn’t agree with their decision. There are very minute risks of adverse events with vaccines, and I considered that we must be willing to face them if we want our children to live in a society without the actual diseases.
I hope that these voices might begin to change the narrative whereby just because you aspire to natural birth, or eat organic food, or use cloth, or baby-wear, it doesn’t mean that you have to reject vaccines.”