New baby? Yes, family members’ vaccines matter

Dear Dr. Roach: I’m expecting a baby in a few months, and my doctor told me that everyone who will come into contact with her must get the Tdap vaccine. If some family members don’t get it, should I keep them from meeting the baby until she’s old enough to be fully vaccinated? — H.C.

Answer: Hope and congratulations are in order. May your baby be healthy.

It’s clearly recommended that parents, siblings, grandparents and other close contacts with an infant be up to date on their Tdap vaccine.

“T” is for tetanus, which is not transmitted from person to person. “D” is diphtheria, which is extremely rare in this country. The concern is the “AP,” acellular pertussis, because although it causes an annoying and long-lasting cough in adults, it is life-threatening to newborns. In the pre-vaccine era, thousands of infants died from pertussis (also called “whooping cough,” even though adults don’t whoop), mostly infected by adults.

I recommend that all close contacts be immunized, and that you take care to protect your baby from anyone with a cough (immunized or unimmunized, since the vaccine isn’t perfect) until she is fully immunized. Babies get the DTaP vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months, then boosters at 18 months and 4 years.

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