The Public Supports Parents Who Take Pertussis Precautions
Jun 17, 2013

This morning, the University of Michigan released its C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. This national poll measures public opinion and  perceptions regarding major health care issues for U.S. children and people in their communities.  This month’s poll centered on protection from a vaccine preventable disease know as pertussis, or whooping cough.   With more than 41,000 cases of pertussis in the United States during 2012, including 18 deaths, public health professionals are pouring their resources into pertussis prevention and awareness, which makes this poll and it’s findings extremely relevant and timely.
It should be noted that pertussis is most severe for babies.  The majority of pertussis deaths occur among infants younger than 3 months of age and about half of infants younger than 1 year of age who get the disease need treatment in the hospital.   As parents are becoming more aware of this dangerous disease, they’re also seeking ways to reduce the risk to their infant children.
It’s currently recommended that pregnant women receive a Tdap booster with every pregnancy.  Additionally, fathers, grandparents, siblings and caregivers are also being encouraged to receive Tdap boosters at least two weeks prior to the arrival of a newborn child.  Some parents have even gone so far as to insist that anyone who wishes to visit their newborn – in the hospital or even at home – be up-to-date on their Tdap booster.  While some parents have expressed uncertainty as to how their friends and family might respond to this kind of request, this poll indicates that the public majority supports parents in taking these extra precautions.
According to the full report72% of adults agree that parents should have the right to insist that visitors receive the pertussis vaccine before visiting a newborn baby in the hospital, and 61% of adults agree that parents should make sure all adults receive the pertussis vaccine before visiting a newborn baby at home.
However, the report also suggests that many adults are unaware of their own vaccination status or are not adequately vaccinated themselves.  For instance, 61% of adults say they don’t know when they were last vaccinated against pertussis, 20% of adults reported that they received the pertussis vaccine less than 10 years ago, and another 19% indicating that their last pertussis vaccine was received more than 10 years ago.
Unfortunately, public support of these parental decisions hasn’t translated into adequate adult Tdap booster rates.  Hopefully, as parents encourage other adults to be vaccinated in an effort to “cocoon” their own children, this will in turn help educate people about the impact adult vaccinations can have in our attempts to protect our  youngest and most vulnerable members of our community from diseases like whooping cough.
If you’re an expectant parent who wants to make sure you create a “circle of protection” around your infant, consider sending these e-cards to your family and friends so that you can begin the important conversation about pertussis protection and the need for adult Tdap boosters.


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