This blog post originally appeared on the Texas Children’s Blog on August 11, 2014. It has been reposted with permission from the author.
As parents, we are bombarded every day with responsibilities, chores, and decisions. What’s for dinner? Did I set the trash out for pick up? Should I sign my daughter up for gymnastics or soccer? It’s a never-ending stream, some more important than others, that often leaves us feeling as if we are barely treading water.
For new parents, all of the preparation that goes into having a baby is overwhelming so it’s natural to focus on the big things – what kind of car seat to buy, picking a name, and taking that labor and delivery class.
For parents of multiple children, we prioritize and let certain things fall to the wayside – feed kids, bath kids, get homework done, pick up diapers, you get the idea. As a working mother of two active little girls, I understand the balancing act that many parents face. There simply isn’t time for everything.
Wherever you are in your parenting journey – it’s easy to let a “chore” like getting vaccinated fall low on the proverbial “to do” list. It’s human nature to tell ourselves, “My child won’t get sick,” or “We can push it off for awhile.” Or maybe it’s not on your “to do” list at all. Maybe you tell yourself, “If my child or I get a vaccine-preventable disease, it’s not that big of a deal.” Well, is it really that simple? Let’s think this through.
You or your child could be the one who gets sick. And yes, it could be a big deal.
Let me explain why:
Currently, the U.S. is experiencing a resurgence of pertussis, or “whooping cough.” Right about now you may be thinking – “isn’t whooping cough a disease that my grandparent’s had?” Yes, they very likely did and sadly, it’s a disease that’s making a comeback.
Last year, Texas experienced the highest number of pertussis cases since 1959. In other words, for the first time in more than 50 years, Texas reported 3,985 cases, 5 of which resulted in death. So far this year, we are on track to report even more cases with nearly 1,400 cases reported to date, 2 of which have resulted in death.
Texas isn’t alone. Outbreaks are occurring throughout the U.S., including California, which declared an epidemic after reporting more than 800 new cases in just the first two weeks of June and 6,170 cases since January 1st.
Sadly, infants are the ones who suffer the most from this devastating disease. The 6 deaths in Texas in the last two years all occurred in infants less than 3 months of age. Of the 3,985 cases in 2013, 11% were hospitalized, 40% of those hospitalizations were in children less than 1 year of age. Moreover, babies are most likely to contract this disease from their mother.
This brings me to my first point – get vaccinated. The best way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination. Currently, it is recommended that all adults receive a single lifetime dose of the pertussis booster vaccine, Tdap, unless you had one as an adolescent (after age 11). Pregnant women should receive a dose of Tdap during each pregnancy.
Many parents underestimate the importance of vaccination. For expecting parents, it may seem counterintuitive to get vaccinated when you are avoiding many other medications. But in fact, getting certain vaccines during pregnancy, including Tdap, is strongly recommended. Getting vaccinated with Tdap during pregnancy protects both the mother and infant.
This brings me to my second point –we vaccinate not only to protect ourselves but to protect others, especially those who can’t protect themselves.
If you’re an expecting parent, new parent, parent of multiples, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or even a friend to someone with small children, please, make it a priority to get vaccinated. If not for yourself, then for those you know who may not be able to protect themselves. Sadly, for the 4 infants who died from pertussis in Texas, none of the mothers were immunized.
It is recommended that pregnant women receive a dose of Tdap during each pregnancy, preferably between 27 and 36 weeks. Infants should receive a dose of DTaP at 2, 4, 6, and 15 months with a booster at 4-6 years. Adolescents are recommended to get their booster dose of Tdap at 11-12 years. And adults who have never received a dose of a pertussis-containing vaccine should receive a dose of Tdap.
As parents, we protect our children whenever we can. We would never be too busy to buckle the car seat or to put on a life vest. Please make protecting your child through vaccination a priority. Prevent what’s preventable and immunize – on time, every time.
To learn more about Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research, visit here.
Rachel Cunningham, MPH, is the primary author of Vaccine-Preventable Disease: The Forgotten Story. She is also the Immunization Registry and Educational Specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital in the Immunization Project. Her focus is primarily on educating health professionals and parents about the importance of vaccines. She’s been at Texas Children’s Hospital since 2007.