Vaccines for parents

Jeffery asked, “Dr. Roy, my wife and I are currently trying for a new baby. I know you are a pediatrician but we had a question for you regarding adults and vaccinations. We heard from friends tonight at dinner that vaccinations we received as a child are worn off by the time we receive our 30’s. My wife and I are both in our early 30’s and this concerns us especially since we are trying for another child. Should we be receiving boosters for our immunizations? Also, this concerns us especially since my wife’s family doesn’t believe in vaccinations so all my daughter’s cousins are not vaccinated. Are we safe? Should we get vaccination boosters? Thank you. Also, we love you as our pediatrician!”

There are two vaccines that parents of young children should receive to protect their families.

The first is called Tdap, short for Tetanus-Diphtheria-acellular Pertussis (this also goes by the brand names Adacel or Boostrix). This has essentially replaced the old “tetanus shot.” In addition to protecting against tetanus and diphtheria, Tdap provides protection against pertussis, also called “whooping cough.” Pertussis immunity wanes quite quickly after childhood vaccination or natural pertussis infections. In a child or adult, pertussis causes a severe cough that can persist for months. In a small infant or newborn, pertussis can cause respiratory failure, seizures, or death. Because of waning immunity and a vaccine that’s not 100% effective, pertussis is still common among adults and school children. Parents of small children and babies should receive a Tdap booster, though this shouldn’t ordinarily be given to mom while she’s pregnant. (It may be a good idea even for pregnant women to get a dose of Tdap if there is a local outbreak, but this should be discussed individually.)

Parents looking forward to having a newborn should also receive a dose of influenza vaccine. This can be a very serious infection in a very young baby (or, at the opposite end, in the elderly.) Influenza vaccine can also be given safely to pregnant women, giving protection to the baby from the minute of birth.

I’m sorry to hear that many cousins in your family are not vaccinated. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation and scare-mongering going on, and unfortunately even well-meaning parents can get caught up in the hysteria. I recently reviewed an excellent book about the teetering tower of lies that created the myth of vaccines and autism—maybe that would make a nice gift for that part of the family, and could help improve the health of their children. Best of luck with that.

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