Just Ask! A Simple Request to Save Your Baby’s Life
Jun 14, 2012

I just read some interesting survey results  in Health News Digest regarding the risk of pertussis in infants.

“A large majority of parents with children aged 2 years and younger – 83 percent – believe that vaccination is important for adults in contact with infants and young children to help protect against the spread of pertussis. Yet, only 19 percent reported asking friends and family in close contact with their child to get an adult pertussis vaccination.”

I can’t say that these percentages surprise me…but they certainly do raise some questions.   
For the past year or more, I’ve been very concerned that parents of young children may not be aware of the risk of pertussis or the importance of cocooning infants by getting adults vaccinated.  I’ve written blog posts about it, shared articles on my Facebook page, and even sent direct messages to friends I know who are expected or had recently delivered.
But, based on the results of this survey, parents ARE aware of the risk.  However, they are just not willing to make a simple request of others.
Why is that?
Well, it appears that this kind of conversation makes parents feel uncomfortable.

“More than half (61 percent) of parents with children aged 2 years and younger said they would feel awkward asking a family member/caregiver to get an adult pertussis vaccine.”

Yet, the survey did indicate that parents were committed to asking friends and family to take other important safety measures when it comes to their child.

“By and large, they would ask adults/caregivers in contact with their young children to wash their hands before cuddling or handling their children (71 percent) and use only approved car safety seats (71 percent) before driving with their infant.”

Perhaps parents fear that they could not adequately explain why the adult booster is so important.  Perhaps they don’t want to run the risk of encountering a loved one who has been influenced by the massive amount of anti-vaccine misinformation that exists out there.  Or perhaps parents cling to that “It won’t happen to my child” mentality.
Whatever the reason, we have got to find a way to  help make this conversation less awkward for new parents.  Especially since 80% of pertussis cases in children can be traced back to a family member.
So what are your suggestions?
Perhaps the pertussis e-cards that are available on the CDC website will help.  Or parents may want to bring it up before they have their baby by explaining that it is something that their OB-GYN advised them to do.  Or they may feel more comfortable framing the request along with a conversation that involves a personal story of a child lost to pertussis.  There are lots of different approaches, but what have you and other concerned parents been doing?
Let’s share some ideas so maybe we can show others that it CAN be done.   
After all, it doesn’t hurt to ask.  And parents should be encouraged by another statistic revealed through this survey.  Nearly 45 percent of adults who don’t have young children in their own homes, but who are around young children,  would consider getting an adult Tdap booster vaccine if a family member asked.  And 83 percent would consider getting one if they were asked by their doctor or other health-care professional.
So be sure to do your part and JUST ASK! 

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