A Prince and a Plea
Jul 25, 2013
I’ve had some mixed emotions these past few days. As the world rejoices in the arrival of a new prince, I’m thinking about all the babies born around the world that will suffer and die from diseases that could have been prevented.
While the overwhelming majority of these deaths occur in countries far from my own, that doesn’t make it any more acceptable to me. And what many people here in the U.S. don’t realize, is that even in countries where one may not expect to see vaccine preventable diseases, we’re still suffering with outbreaks of diseases like pertussis and measles.
According to the Wall Street Journal, measles has taken a toll on a densely populated Orthodox Jewish community in NY earlier this year. After a traveler returned from London, the disease began spreading among pockets of unvaccinated in the community. To date, as many as a 58 people have been infected in that area, including a child who suffered with pneumonia and two pregnant women, one who went on to have a miscarriage after being hospitalized with measles.
With measles on the rise there have already been 118 cases reported in the U.S. so far this year. Another 25,000 people in Pakistan have contracted measles this year, and 154 of those cases claimed the lives of children. And in Europe, we have seen as many as 8,500 measles cases over the past year. Considering the fact that measles vaccine is highly effective and children who aren’t vaccinated against measles are 35 times more likely than immunized children to catch the disease, it’s easy to see the unfortunate impact of missed immunizations.
My plea for vaccination extends to other diseases as well. For instance, plenty of people believe they are appropriately vaccinated. But have they received their adult Tdap boosters and do they know that this may help reduce the spread of pertussis, especially among infants who’ve not yet received their full course of immunizations?
This week, a child by the name of Kaliah, should have been celebrating her 2nd birthday with her family. Instead, Kaliah was a victim of pertussis, dying at just 27 days old. You can read her heartbreaking story on the Shot By Shot website, along with numerous other personal accounts of vaccine preventable diseases.
And the McCaffery’s, a grieving family in Australia, still continue to educate parents about the need for Tdap boosters in an effort to protect newborn babies from pertussis. After they lost their child from pertussis during an outbreak in Australia, the government initiated a program to offered free Tdap boosters to parents. Now that there has been a reduction in cases, the government is eliminating their program. Of course, the McCaffery’s are worried that this action will simply lead to more tragic deaths. They spoke out earlier this week on a program called The Project and they continue to encourage people to sign a petition that will highlight the importance of the Tdap booster and to once again make it easy and affordable for citizens to receive it.
With measles and pertussis concerns so prevalent, along with the much publicized arrival of a new prince, I can’t help but worry for the health of the royal baby. Unfortunately, good looks, good fortune and even royalty won’t prevent a child from contracting diseases like measles or pertussis if they are not adequately protected.
This week, as the media continues to share stories and images of the joyous arrival of a new prince, let’s take this opportunity to talk among our social circles about how vaccines can protect our precious babies. Consider it a plea for the many princes and princesses born day after day to everday people.
This is what everyone needs to know about pertussis:
Pertussis is spread from person to person through the air by infectious droplets; it is a highly contagious infection and antibiotics do not cure whooping cough, but they can help prevent the spread of the disease if administered in time.
There is a vaccine that can help reduce the incidence of pertussis. For infants it is called DTaP and the booster vaccine for adolescents and adults is referred to as Tdap. The vaccine combines protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (which is also commonly referred to as whooping cough).
It is recommended that infants receive a three shot series of DTaP vaccine, at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months in order to build up high levels of protection, and then booster shots at 15 through 18 months and at 4 through 6 years to maintain that protection. Since immunity from the vaccine does wane over time, it is recommended that adolescents and adults receive Tdap booster shots at various times throughout their life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that pregnant women receive a Tdap booster during each pregnancy. After receiving a whooping cough vaccine, a pregnant woman will create protective antibodies and pass some of them to her baby before birth. The protective antibodies are highest about 2 weeks after getting the vaccine, so it’s advised that pregnant women get vaccinated during your 27th through 36th week, to give the baby the most protection when he is born. These antibodies can provide babies with some short-term protection against whooping cough in early life and also protect a child from some of the more serious complications that come along with whooping cough.
According to the CDC, children who haven’t received DTaP vaccines are at least 8 times more likely to get pertussis than children who received all 5 recommended doses of DTaP.
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