After Losing Babies to Pertussis Parents Make Plea for Prevention
Jan 28, 2016
How is it that three families, who’ve never actually met one another, find themselves sharing words of consolation and encouragement at the same time each year?
How is it that these three families are forever bonded by their children, and the courage and compassion they have to share their stories?
Carter, Callie and Brady were just infants when they had to say goodbye. But during this week, back in 2010 and 2012, three babies lost their fight to pertussis, (more commonly known as whooping cough) and their families were forever changed.
In 2008, Every Child By Two (ECBT) launched a program called Vaccinate Your Baby, which was inspired in large part by the Romaguera family, who had contacted the organization several years earlier after having lost their baby Gabrielle to pertussis.
In the days and months following the death of Carter, Callie and Brady, the Dube, Van Tornhout and Alcaide families also reached out to Every Child By Two in hopes that they could turn their personal tragedies into a public health mission.
Today, as Every Child By Two Parent Advocates, their commitment to pertussis prevention has undoubtedly helped bring about many positive and live-saving changes. They have not only raised awareness of the importance of adult Tdap boosters, but their efforts have helped alter the way in which the public is advised to protect newborns from pertussis.
Prior to the death of their children, none of these families were educated on the need for adult Tdap boosters. They’ve since devoted a great amount of time to sharing their stories; in media interviews, in state legislative chambers, on podiums at public health conferences, and in blogs and Facebook posts shared widely on social media.
New Recommendations Are Helping in the Fight Against Pertussis
Today, leading professional organizations such as the AAP, the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), all recommend that pregnant women receive Tdap boosters in the third trimester of each pregnancy. This not only helps to protect the expectant mom from contracting pertussis and passing it onto their newborn, it also provides passive immunity to the unborn baby. This practice helps protect infants before they begin receiving their own pertussis immunizations through a series of five DTaP vaccine doses that begin at two months of age.
Before the DTaP shot was routinely administered to infants, about 8,000 people in the United States died each year from whooping cough. However, thanks to greater immunization coverage and greater public awareness, this number has dropped to fewer than 20 deaths per year. Unfortunately, because the bacteria is still widely circulating in our communities and not everyone is adequately protected, whooping cough still makes people very sick. In 2014, as many as 30,000 people were diagnosed with pertussis and each year many are still hospitalized. The real danger is among children under 12 month of age. About half of these infants who get whooping cough are hospitalized, and tragically approximately 1 out of 100 infants who are hospitalized will die. So how can we better protect these babies?
Research Continues to Guide Vaccine Recommendations
Research indicates that family members are often the source of infection among infants, and most family members are passing on the infection without ever realizing they have pertussis themselves. In one recent study, approximately 85% of infants with pertussis got if from a member of their immediate or extended family. This is why Tdap boosters are now recommended for all family members and caregivers who spend time around babies. In fact, families members should get their Tdap booster at least two weeks prior to the expected arrival of the baby, since it’s estimated that it takes that long to acquire immunity after getting the vaccine.
Most recently, the efforts and experiences of our Every Child By Two Parent Advocates have even helped inspire the expansion of the Vaccinate Your Baby program to the Vaccinate Your Family program. When people of all ages are up-to-date on their recommended vaccines, they’re less likely to pass illness on to our vulnerable infant population.
We encourage everyone to visit the adult section of the Vaccinate Your Family website, where there are several resources that specifically help educate older individuals about the need for adult Tdap boosters, to include materials for grandparents who want to help protect their young grandbabies.
Please familiarize yourself with this Grandparent Toolkit and share these materials among your friends, family and colleagues.
Every Child By Two stands with our Parent Advocates in our mission to ensure that no family should ever have to endure what they’ve been through. This week, as we mark the anniversary of the passing of Carter, Callie and Brady, may we each share this video and the many resources on the Vaccinate Your Family website in an effort to educate the public about pertussis prevention.
This guest post was written by Alethea Mshar out of concern for her son Ben. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog Ben’s Writing, Running Mom. Like all parents, my child’s health...
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