The idea for KEEP YOU SAFE was initially sparked by my own concerns re MMR vaccinations for my daughter as a baby. I have a mild congenital spine condition - a direct result of medication prescribed to my mother while pregnant - and for this reason like to put my mind at ease by carrying out due diligence on any medical recommendations.
My husband and I had heard about the Wakefield controversy and the vaccine’s potential connection to autism. Even though the link had been discredited, we were still hesitant about proceeding until we'd thoroughly researched the matter.
We did vaccinate our daughter in the end, deciding that the risks far outweighed any misgivings, but for my part I was intrigued by the hostility amongst some friends and family (and especially other parents) toward anyone who decides not to.
The issue raised its head again when my daughter’s school sent out MMR booster consent forms not long after she started. I recalled that overwhelmingly negative sentiment towards parents who expressed even the slightest reservation about the vaccine, and figured such feelings would be even more heightened amongst parents of school-going children - especially if an unvaccinated child happened to become ill.
In the story, we meet two mothers who live very different lives in a small town outside Dublin. Both are trying to do the best they can for their five year old daughters.
Kate O’Hara, who has recently become a single mum after the sudden death of her husband knows all about the importance of vaccinations—she's a nurse. But her daughter, Rosie, suffers from a rare condition that makes her allergic to the gelatin in vaccines. For this reason, Rosie has not been vaccinated.
Meanwhile mummy blogger Madeleine Cooper, who seems to live a picture-perfect life with her husband and two children, has chosen not to vaccinate her daughter, Clara due to misgivings about the vaccine.
But when Clara contracts measles and Rosie falls seriously ill soon after, will Kate end up paying for Madeleine’s choice?
These two very different women, in very different situations, are ultimately struggling with the same issue, keeping their children safe from harm. Yet the characters can’t see that.
In KEEP YOU SAFE, I try to explore via Kate and Madeleine's stories, the personal nuances behind vaccine refusal, yet implicitly illustrate for parents the horrific implications - medical and otherwise - of not vaccinating.
Melissa Hill, 2017.