Immunisation vital to keep daughter well

17 April 2015

Cathy Houlihan has seen first-hand the worst case scenario when people don’t get vaccinated.

She has been on a journey over the last seven years to keep her daughter Ariana free from bugs even when she had little or no immunity.

Ariana was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia soon after her fourth birthday. She was due to have her last childhood vaccinations when she was diagnosed and so was not fully immunised when she got sick. Two and half years of treatment followed including lots of trips back and forth from Starship Hospital in Auckland. 

Cathy and Ariana Houlihan with Lumpy

Cathy and Ariana Houlihan with Lumpy

Then in July 2010 came the heart breaking news that Ariana had had a complete relapse and would need a full bone marrow transplant. Along with the chemotherapy drugs Ariana was taking, this left her with no immunity to any diseases.

Ariana was off school for 18 months says Cathy. “Seven of those months were spent at Starship Hospital. We saw people who were being treated for cancer who didn’t make it because they had picked up a virus. I particularly remember a 15 year old boy who had nearly beaten his cancer but died after catching chicken pox.”

“It really reinforced for me how important immunisation against these potentially fatal diseases is. I just wanted to keep Ariana away from people who could pass anything on to her.”

“We live 15 minutes out of town and that helped avoid a lot of people contact. It was very scary when Ariana did return to Ormond School. However, the school community was great at letting me know if anyone was sick. If someone at school had chickenpox or shingles Ariana would be off school for 14 days.”

Ariana is now a happy 11 year old attending Ilminster Intermediate. She has caught up with her immunisations and enjoys spending time with her dog Lumpy, two cats, two kittens, chickens and riding horses when she gets the opportunity.

Get your children immunized implores Cathy. “It is an easy thing to do to keep them safe. If you don’t, you never know when the virus they are carrying could be passed on to a vulnerable person with disastrous affect.”

Tairawhiti District Health is celebrating Immunisation Week along with the rest of New Zealand and about 180 other countries and territories as part of a World Health Organization initiative.

New Zealand’s focus for the week is on promoting immunisation throughout the lifespan. Parents are encouraged to protect their children from whooping cough and other serious diseases by ensuring they immunise their children on time.

Babies need their free immunisation when they’re 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months old to be protected. Boosters are given to children when they’re 4 and 11 years old. Parents are encouraged to immunise their children on time to get the best protection.

Free immunisations are also available and recommended for pregnant women. Please note chickenpox vaccine is not on the New Zealand schedule. If a parent would like their children vaccinated against chickenpox it can be purchased. Please talk to your GP or practice nurse

If you would like more information contact your local GP or Medical Centre or telephone 0800 IMMUNE or visit