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Why I am saying ‘no’ to swine flu

There were many sleepless nights, wondering if we were making the right decision. Give our two children the swine-flu vaccine or not?

Which was the correct answer, tick the boxes. Turns out there seemed to be no correct answer. From our point of view you were damned if you did and damned if you didn't.

Up until the very day the children were notified about getting their jabs, I was still confused over the reasons for the vaccine.

As far as hubby and I could make out, swine flu had been pandemic in the US last year, starting from South America and making its way northward. We'd been to the States on holiday, crossing most of the swine-flu hubs of activity and, in blissful ignorance, never having contracted so much as a cough.

Once we got home it seemed everyone was on red alert for the swine flu -- almost hysterical attention was being drawn to it. I felt that, as parents in particular, we were being frightened into defensive mode.

Don't get me wrong, usually I'm the first one beating a path to the doctor's door, asking for whatever vaccine is going. Aoise (eight) and Edward (five) have had all the required jabs to date.

But, for whatever reason, I couldn't fathom why we just had to give our children this vaccine. Just because the WHO said so, and it was free, was that really reason enough? There was also a 'just in case' mentality. Not enough to convince me.

Added to this was the growing unease among some of our friends. Many of us wondered what exactly the vaccine contained and, more importantly, what the long-term effects were. As it turned out, nobody could give a detailed definite answer on this and that worried me a great deal more.

One GP I talked to suggested the whole thing was scaremongering: the vaccine could be as ineffective as taking a drink of water for a headache. This GP also had children in the 'at risk' category with asthma, but was adamant they would not get the injection.

But, with the mantra of 'you're a bad mother if you don't give your children this vaccine' spinning in my head, we decided to go ahead and let them get the jab. I thought, 'well, we have to do what's best for the children'. Then the sleepless nights came again: what actually was best?

I was worried about any vaccine that could have a negative effect on the children's development. Are they 100pc safe?

It might provide a fabricated immunity, but that, surely, was going against the natural law of things, where a healthy immune system would have a better chance of beating off the swine flu?

The morning of the jab I told the teachers we had changed our minds. On a quick look around it turned out half of Edward's First Infants class had already got the vaccine, while half of the remainder were opting out. Aoise's Third Class got their jabs, except for one or two. Even on the day I met many parents still in two minds about what to do.

Looking back I am glad we decided to leave it. If and when we get more information about the vaccines we might change our minds. The only one disappointed was Aoise, who thought she wasn't "cool" by missing out on what most of the others were doing.