Immunizing For Two

We have all heard of “eating for two” but have you ever thought about “immunizing for two?”  Well that’s definitely where my mind is these days.  That’s right, I am happy to announce that we are expecting baby number three this Spring!  During pregnancy so many things are out of your control, but I know that by eating healthy, exercising and of course staying up-to-date on vaccinations I can give this baby the best chance at a healthy happy life.   After the first visit with my OB I made an appointment to get my annual flu shot.  Being pregnant actually puts me in one of the many groups of people who are considered to be at a higher risk of developing flu related complications and that is a risk I am certainly not willing to take.  Knowing that my husband, my children, and I were protected was reassuring, but I suddenly began to think of all the loving hugs and kisses this new addition would receive upon his/her arrival.  My husband and I had a talk and decided that as we announced the pregnancy to family, we would also let them know that in order to protect the baby everyone needed to get their an annual flu shot as well as the Tdap vaccine to protect against Pertussis (whooping cough).  In other words, we are “cocooning” our baby.  What’s cocooning?  “Cocooning,” as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a strategy to protect infants against pertussis and other infectious diseases.  To put it simply, it is the practice of “vaccinating all close contacts of infants to protect the newborn from disease by keeping all those around them disease free.”

I’ll be honest, I was not sure how the news of “mandating” vaccines would be taken, but having had a child hospitalized because of a vaccine-preventable disease, the possibility of exposing our child to such serious illnesses was not a risk we were willing to take.   According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP,) flu vaccination is not recommended until 6 months of age and protection from pertussis begins at 2 months and is not complete until all doses have been administered at the 4, 6 and 15 month appointments, leaving a large gap in time where infants are unprotected from anyone who may be unknowingly carrying the disease.   As we broke the news everyone was more than willing to do whatever was necessary to protect the newest addition to our family, but there was one person left …my grandmother.  In my grandmother’s 93 years, she has spent less time in a hospital than most people a third her age, rarely even visiting a doctor.  So why wouldn’t she jump on the bandwagon?  A paralyzing fear of needles, that’s why!  Now when I say fear, I mean truly, deathly afraid of needles.  I was concerned that telling her she needed to receive not one but two vaccines was going to be like telling someone who was afraid of heights to climb Mt. Everest!   After sharing our good news I asked her if she had heard about “whooping cough” to which she replied “You know your Grandaddy had that  as a baby and almost died.”  I was so thankful to hear those words come out of her mouth because now I had an easy segway to support vaccination.  I explained to her that that was exactly why it was important for everyone in our family to protect themselves and by doing so protect our baby from what can be a devastating and fatal disease.  She sat there for a minute, looked at me very seriously and said, “Well, I’m certainly not going to be the one to kill my great -grand baby!  You just tell me the name of the shots and we’ll take care of it.”  What a relief!

As parents all we want to do is to protect our children.  If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, make sure that you, your friends, and your family are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.  Infants live unprotected in a world full of preventable diseases and they must rely on those around them for protection only obtained through vaccination.  By “cocooning” you can give your child the precious gift of protection from vaccine-preventable disease.

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