New immunization recommendations have been issued for children and teens, with an alarming footnote: Not enough adults are getting the Tdap vaccine to protect infants from pertussis or whooping cough.
In California alone, there over 8,383 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of pertussis in 2010, and 10 infant deaths. Not to totally scare you parents with small babies (myself included), but nine of those deaths were in children under 2 months old who had not yet received their first shot.
While infants can receive the DTaP vaccine as early as six weeks, they are not fully immunized until between 4 and 6 years old.
Thankfully, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now extending its recommendation of the adult Tdap vaccine to adults over 65 who have close contact with infants (that's you, Grandma!).
I'm surprised to hear one physician, Doug Campos-Outcalt, the American Academy of Family Physicians' liaison to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, suggest, "People just aren't thinking of it."
Has no one seen those disturbing yet grating commercials where a concerned-sounding woman tells us the safest place for a baby -- our arms -- is also the most dangerous, while a baby hacks in the background? Before I became a mom, I could not stand those ads and was convinced that this was yet another drug company's plan to cash in on off-label use of a rare disease.
Then it became an epidemic in California, where many argue that non-vaccinators play a role, and there've been outbreaks in several other states. Since the one-shot dose of Tdap that adults can get is supposed to be totally safe, it seems like a no-brainer to get vaccinated if there's a baby in your life. As parents, we should make sure our older children are caught up on their DTaP shots and ask grandparents and caregivers to get immunized.
Image via Daniel Paquet/Flickr