HappyFace: using art to educate parents on vaccinations

Julian Chalobah, Islay Bodinard, Martin Rowson, Annabel Crabb

Julian Chalobah and Islay Bodinard, co-founders of the Foundation for Young People With Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome who are participants in the HappyFace vaccination campaign

The Foundation for Young People With Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome has just launched a new campaign to encourage parents to get their kids vaccinated.

The campaign, also called HappyFace, is part of the NGO’s ongoing campaign to raise awareness of the prevalence of vaccine-preventable diseases in children on the autistic spectrum – such as measles, whooping cough, HPV, chicken pox and mumps.

Around 1 in 100 autistic children are said to be vaccinated in the UK at the moment, and Charities fear that unvaccinated children could affect the vaccination rate. They claim that the current “vaccine hesitancy” could lead to a fall in vaccination rates which could lead to outbreaks.

They say it could be beneficial to vaccinate babies at around 16 months. While the campaign points out that to vaccinate a child against all diseases at around 15 months would mean they would have been getting vaccines at all under current regulations.

According to the NHS, parents of babies should talk to their GP about how vaccination can be included in the baby’s routine immunisation schedule.

A doctor should prescribe a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine for the first three months. After this point, there is no such age limit.

Meanwhile the Foundation for Young People With Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome also told us in their new blog that parents of autistic children are feeling a ‘huge weight’ has been lifted by the recent government changes.

Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the main type of jab given to babies will now last just two years and will not be combined with booster vaccine.

The key jab, given at one year old, will be given in two doses, in the first year of life and again in the second year of life.

A type of jab called Pneumococcal C has also been ditched – the most common cause of death in children in the UK.

However, the charity does seem to be concerned by a lack of data on the number of children getting vaccinated.

They say that the ‘data void’ is a ‘huge problem.’

They also told us that parents of children with autism are being encouraged to stay up to date on the new changes.

When asked about how they’re supporting parents of autistic children, a spokesperson for the Foundation said:

“It is something that we have tried to do with our work and to offer hope and support. We want people to know that our vision is that all children should be vaccinated and vaccination is one of the most straightforward things that can be done to help us make this happen.

“From the size of the parent community of autism who are friends and team members on our Facebook group, to our conferences, our online support, work with schools and festivals and of course our walk campaigns, we’ve worked to do all we can to put our message out there.”

They also pointed out that it’s important for parents to follow the information provided by their GP, whether or not they’re having the jab.

“Parents need to tell their GP about all their vaccination history, if they are concerned about a vaccine strain and if their child is due to be vaccinated. It is also important for parents to be reminded that an autism diagnosis can only be determined if a child is assessed at a medical appointment.

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