New Parents and Grandparents—Which Vaccines Do You Need?

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A young boy shoots a selfie with his family in the background.
All these people want to meet your newborn—have they gotten the necessary vaccinations to protect your baby?

Diapers, baby clothes, the crib. All of these are essentials on every expectant parent’s checklist.

What might be forgotten in the anticipation of a newborn is one of the most important items: vaccines for the parents, grandparents, and anyone else in the family who plans to spend time with the new bundle of joy.

All close contacts to the newborn should be vaccinated with the annual influenza vaccine at least 2 weeks before meeting the baby. Click To Tweet

To sort out which vaccines to get—and when—we talked to pediatrician Dr. Santhosh Nadipuram.

Which vaccines do you recommend for patients planning on starting a family?

First, aspiring parents should be up-to-date on all their childhood vaccines.

Rubella is one of the most important for a mother who wishes to become pregnant, because congenital rubella infection can cause many problems with a growing baby. This vaccine should be given before getting pregnant, as it is a live-virus vaccine and shouldn’t be given to pregnant women.

The antibodies generated by the flu shot will also circulate to the baby during pregnancy and protect the baby in early life.

Which vaccines do you recommend during pregnancy?

I recommend two vaccines for pregnant parents: The first is the flu vaccine, and the second is pertussis (whooping cough).

The flu vaccine should be given to expecting parents as soon possible (especially for mom, as the flu can cause worse complications during pregnancy).

The antibodies generated by the flu shot will also circulate to the baby during pregnancy and protect the baby in early life. This is really important since the baby can’t get the flu shot before they are 6 months old, and we don’t have very effective treatments to care for those babies who become very ill with the flu.

Whooping cough is a very dangerous infection for a young baby because children under the age of 3 months are most vulnerable to death from this illness. Click To Tweet

The second vaccine is pertussis (whooping cough), which comes with tetanus and diphtheria vaccines in a formulation called Tdap.
This vaccine should be given in the 3rd trimester to a pregnant mother in order to protect mom and generate antibodies which will circulate to the growing baby.

Whooping cough is a very dangerous infection for a young baby because children under the age of 3 months are most vulnerable to death from this illness.

As with the flu, when little babies become very sick with whooping cough, we have a limited number of treatments to get them better—and they can be invasive. We have had outbreaks of pertussis here in California which resulted in many hospitalizations and infant deaths.

Do you recommend these same vaccines for grandparents and other family members who will be in close contact with the newborn?

I do. All close contacts to the newborn should be vaccinated with the annual influenza vaccine at least 2 weeks before meeting the baby.

They should also have had Tdap in the last 10 years. If they have not received that vaccine, they should get a Tdap booster at least 2 weeks before meeting the baby.

What do you suggest expecting parents do if family members are hesitant—or outright refuse—to get vaccinated?

I personally take a strong stance—if a family member is not willing to get vaccinated, I don’t let them near my children until my kids have been adequately vaccinated and are a bit older (6 months old or so).

The issue of vaccines should be brought up the same way that an expecting parent speaks to family members about other illnesses.


Read: Do I Really Need a Flu Shot?


Just as you would ask them to wash their hands, check themselves for signs/symptoms of illness (such as runny nose, cough, fever, etc.), anyone wanting to be close to a newborn should be willing to vaccinate themselves against infections that could seriously harm the baby.

Understandably, these can all be difficult subjects to broach, but this talk should be had as early as possible. They should first talk about wanting to keep the baby safe and healthy. It should be emphasized that vaccination does work to reduce death and complications from illness (even if they don’t prevent the illness entirely).

Second, parents can tell loved ones that these vaccines (flu shot and Tdap) are proven safe for all recipients, unless there has been a severe reaction in the past. It does help from time to time to bring in a physician or expert to help with this conversation. On occasion, I have made progress with reluctant family members when the expectant parents themselves have been unable to convince grandparents or aunts and uncles to get vaccinated.

If precautions are followed, the vast majority of serious infections for newborns can be prevented.

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