Which Vaccines Are Required Before Grandparents Hold Newborns?

Vaccines protect infants while their immune systems gain strength

new born infant

Nothing brings a family together more than the birth of a new loved one. But, part of taking care of vulnerable infants is to protect them against transmittable diseases. 

For parents, it is reassuring to know when someone who wants to hold their baby is up-to-date with their vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says ‘newborn babies do not have fully developed immune systems, making them particularly vulnerable to infections.’

Furthermore, during an October 9, 2019, Vital Signs webcast, the CDC said ‘there are 2 vaccines grandparents need prior to contacting the newest family member.’

Influenza and pertussis – or whooping cough – are serious infections that can be fatal for babies, especially for those who are too young to be vaccinated directly.

The CDC’s Principal Deputy Director, Dr. Anne Schuchat said during this webcast that these vaccination requirements are related to under-vaccinated mothers.

‘Women who are pregnant are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized if they develop influenza, compared with similarly aged women.’

‘During influenza seasons between 2010 and 2018, women who were pregnant accounted for up to 34 percent of influenza-associated hospitalizations among women 15-44 years old, though only around 9 percent of women in this age group are pregnant.’

‘For infants who get whooping cough, the disease can be life-threatening.’ 

‘More than half of infants under 12 months who are hospitalized for pertussis are under 2 months and out of all the fatalities reported for whooping cough in all ages, nearly 70 percent occur in babies less than 2 months old.’

‘When infants get whooping cough they are usually very sick and have difficulty breathing, eating, drinking, or sleeping.’

‘Today, we are stressing the importance of two safe and effective vaccines for pregnant women—and the risks to both women and their babies when these vaccines are not given during pregnancy,’ concluded Dr. Schuchat.

During the 2017–18 influenza season, 49.1 percent of pregnant women received influenza vaccination before or during pregnancy, and just 54.4 percent of women with a live birth received Tdap during pregnancy.

And, only 32.8 percent received both of the CDC’s recommended vaccines.

These vaccines are the annual flu shot and a vaccination that prevents whooping cough.

Influenza:

  • Infants are one of the highest risk groups for severe infection and possible death if they become ill. Babies are unable to be vaccinated for influenza until 6 months of age, and it’s a 2-shot vaccine, so they will not be protected until they’re 7 months old.
  • In terms of flu, healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. 
  • This means parents cannot always determine if someone will make their baby sick simply by looking for symptoms of illness.
  • Influenza immunization during pregnancy was first recommended by the US Surgeon General in 1960. 
  • As of November 9, 2019, a total of 4 influenza-associated pediatric fatalities have occurred during the 2019-2020 season. The CDC confirmed 143 pediatric fatalities during the 2018-2019 flu season. 
  • Vaccine suggestion: the CDC has approved various flu vaccines for the 2019-2020 influenza season, which are discussed in this article. But, the CDC suggests pregnant women get a flu shot and not the nasal spray influenza vaccine for the current flu season. 

Whooping cough (Pertussis):

  • Whooping cough is extremely contagious and can be deadly for babies, especially younger than 2 months of age. 
  • Because of this, pregnant women are recommended to have this vaccine with every pregnancy.
  • Protective antibodies are at their highest about 2 weeks after getting the vaccine, but it takes time to pass them to your baby. So the preferred time to get a Tdap vaccine is early in your third trimester.
  • And the amount of whooping cough antibodies in your body decreases over time. That is why the CDC recommends you get a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.
  • Whooping cough can sometimes appear to be nothing more than the common cold, which hides the true danger it poses to babies. It may take time for symptoms of these illnesses to appear. 
  • Whooping cough symptoms usually develop within 5 to 10 days after exposure, but it can take up to 3 weeks in some cases.
  • During 2018, the CDC’s provisional data indicates about 1,100 pertussis related cases in infants under 6 months of age.  
  • Vaccine suggestions: Two vaccines in the United States help prevent whooping cough: DTaP and Tdap. More information can be found at this CDC page.

The optimal timing for these vaccines is at least 2 weeks before coming in contact with an infant, as that is about how long it takes for the body to mount an immune and protective response.

Parents, brothers and sisters, babysitters, and other caregivers can all help prevent the spread of disease by getting vaccinated too.

Vaccines news to protect newborns published by Precision Vaccinations