Welcoming a new baby into the world is one of life’s greatest experiences. From feeling those first few kicks, to setting up a nursery and to buying your first pram – planning for your new baby to arrive into the world can be very exciting, but it can also be daunting. Particularly when it comes to protecting your child, and family as a whole, against illness.

One of the best ways to ensure your child is as protected as possible is through vaccinations, but the understandable reality given the past few years is that some parents are anxious about doing this. In fact, new research from Amcal revealed that almost one in four Australian parents feel anxious about getting their family vaccinated^. 

This is a feeling that mum and paediatrician, Sarah Arachchi, can relate to… 

“As a first time mum, I remember all too well, the fear that grappled me as I wanted to cocoon my newborn and protect him from the world around him.”  

“I remember my newborn’s first vaccinations and holding him tight as he let out a loud squeal as the needle went in. It hurt in my heart when he cried and I wished there was another way but I knew that the vaccinations would protect him.”

When it comes to coping with the anxiety of vaccinations, the best thing you can do is to be prepared. Understanding what vaccinations you and your children need to get is a great way to do this but according to Amcal’s research, almost half of Aussie parents don’t know what vaccinations their children need to get and when^. 

Amcal pharmacist, Angela Boyatzis, says that vaccinations are something parents need to start thinking about from the moment they conceive. 

“Planning for bubs vaccinations should start before they have even arrived. If you’re planning a pregnancy, you should check that you’re up-to-date with all your routine and seasonal vaccinations. 

During pregnancy, the Australian Department of Health advises you receive both the flu and whooping cough vaccinations as well as COVID-19 vaccinations. That’s because infants under six months are too young to receive the flu vaccination, so the best way to protect your newborn before then is to receive a flu vaccination during pregnancy.”

And it’s not just mum who needs to consider vaccinations before bub’s arrival…

“One of the most important steps in keeping your baby protected is ensuring that anyone who will be around them as a newborn is also up-to-date with their vaccinations. This includes other parents, grandparents, family, and friends – the sky’s the limit! It’s particularly important for all visitors to be vaccinated against whooping cough, which can be deadly to newborns until they’re vaccinated themselves, plus flu and COVID-19,” Angela said. 

Asking friends and family to be up-to-date with their vaccinations can be intimidating but, as the protector of your children, Sarah says that others should respect your decisions and understand that it’s your job to be their voice. 

“You should be able to choose who can visit your newborn baby and place some guidelines around visitors as a newborn baby generally has a weaker immune system and most reasonable people will understand and appreciate this. This may mean waiting a bit longer before taking your newborn out to a large gathering or choosing outdoor events that are less crowded.” 

When it comes to getting children vaccinated themselves, it’s not surprising that many children (and parents themselves) can experience some fear and stress.

Angela says that misconceptions about vaccinations can cause parents to feel apprehensive about routine children’s vaccinations but it’s important to remember that they are proven to be one of the safest and most effective public health interventions in history. 

“Probably the biggest misconception we see from parents and patients alike is that if we experience aches or pains as response to the vaccination, we think we have got the ‘disease’ we are being vaccinated against, whereas it’s actually just a sign that our immune system is responding to the vaccination as hoped! These side effects are typical of many vaccines and usually resolve within two days,”

As children are now requiring more vaccinations due to COVID-19 and influenza, we know that dealing with their fears can be difficult but after many years of coaching parents through these experiences and as a mum herself, Sarah has some helpful tips for making it through.

1. Firstly, it is a great idea to talk to your child about the vaccine beforehand and how it will help to protect them (like a superpower).

2. Secondly, taking a second parent or grandparent in can be super useful in case your child becomes distressed or scared. 

3. Thirdly, I usually tell my kids that the needle will sting. A lot of the time, we say “It won’t hurt”, but we all know that injections sting and can be painful. It’s important to be honest with kids as it helps to develop trust. 

4. Finally, during the actual injection, sit them on your knee as it helps to give cuddles afterwards and use lots of distraction (yes this is the one time where an episode of Bluey is useful!). A lollipop or reward afterwards is also a great idea.”

^Research conducted among 1,025 Australian adults by the Online Research Unit in March 2022, commissioned by Amcal Pharmacy.