"Wanna Meet My Baby? Sure. Show Me Your Medical Records."
Disclaimer: That is not an actual quote from me or anyone else, as far as I know.
But it gets at an increasingly common philosophy among doctors and some parents of newborns: the idea that anyone who comes in contact with a baby should be up to date on his or her vaccines, to provide as much protection against contagious diseases as possible. This strategy is known as cocooning and it refers mostly to influenza and Tdap vaccines. Tdap protects adults against tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), and it's vital because a baby can't be immunized against whooping cough until her first dose of the DTaP vaccine at 2 months of age (and she's not really considered protected until the third dose, at 6 months). In recent years, a large percentage of babies who developed whooping cough were believed to have gotten it from their mother, or another adult in the home. As a result, the CDC now advises that all pregnant women get a Tdap booster in the third trimester, and that all adults who are in contact with the baby are fully immunized. I completely support that... and yet I think back to when I was a new mom, a handful of years ago (and way before this recommendation was made). My mind was so blown by everything that accompanies new parenthood; I'm not honestly sure I would've had the strength to insist that all of our loved ones get their shots before meeting my child. I'm glad that moms today have these official recommendations on their side--it makes it a lot easier to explain your position.
Of course, all the recommendations and guidelines in the world won't change the mind of a person who doesn't support vaccines in the first place, and we're feeling the effects of this more than ever. This week's news about measles--that we've had more cases so far in 2014 than we have in any year since 2000--is disheartening. But with all of the misinformation and misunderstandings about the MMR vaccine's constantly-disproven link to autism, and the number of parents who've chosen not to give their child the MMR vaccine anyway, it's no wonder that once-eliminated diseases like measles are making a comeback. So far the state with the most cases is Ohio, with at least 138, followed by California (60) and New York (26). In this Daily Show clip--which somehow managed to make this subject mildly amusing--the noted pediatrician and infectious-disease specialist, Paul Offit, M.D., offers this bottom line: "I think, sadly, the only way this gets better is when we start to see more and more outbreaks."
The caveat to all of this: Certain people should not receive vaccines, of course. The CDC offers a clear breakdown of those people here.
Image: Grandparents in living room with baby smiling via Shutterstock.