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Doctors debate the benefits of vaccine cocooning

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Families may get shots to protect babies

Doctors in the U.S. and Canada aren't on the same page when it comes to vaccinating the close family members of babies who are too young to receive the shots themselves (a practice called vaccine cocooning). Parents aren't in agreement, either. Read on to find out more info!

vaccine cocooning

The Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. currently recommends offering vaccinations, such as the DTaP and influenza immunizations, to family members who are in close contact with babies who aren't old enough for their own shots yet. Also known as vaccine "cocooning," the idea is to keep the possibility of disease away from those who are most vulnerable.

Canadian doctors, however, aren't sure the enormous cost of the program is financially viable. They estimated that to prevent one infant death from whooping cough (pertussis), around one million adults will need to get the jab at $20 a pop.

Building herd immunity

Vaccine cocooning is another way of building herd immunity. In other words, if everyone around you is vaccinated, it helps keep your potential of exposure down because those who are immunized have less of a chance getting the disease.

Babies don't get their first dose of DTaP, which includes the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccines, until they are 6 weeks old, and flu shots aren't recommended until they are at least 6 months of age.

The very young are more at risk of serious complications for pertussis and influenza -- in fact, children under 6 months of age are at the greatest risk due to their small size and immature immune system. Influenza immunity can come from a mother who was vaccinated during pregnancy -- also, some immunity goes through the breast milk to a nursing infant -- but little ones who have yet to receive their first dose of the DTaP vaccine simply have to avoid exposure.

All for it

Many parents we polled indicated they either love the idea of vaccine cocooning or have already started the practice. "I think it's a great idea," said Jolene from California. "We (me, my husband and preteen son) got the flu shot and pertussis booster to protect our newborn baby, Tessa."

Jessica, mother of five, agreed. "I get vaccinations like the flu shot when I am pregnant or when I am nursing," she shared. "It goes to the baby and protects them through the milk and the womb."

Erin, mother of two, took it a step further. "The only detriment to my or my baby's health is all the people that are unvaccinated," she clarified. "Not vaccinating is such a selfish act. My husband and I were vaccinated before leaving the hospital for flu and pertussis."

Not so sure

Ty from Louisiana isn't interested in the idea. "I've heard stories of passing the [disease itself] on," he explained. And Amy, mother of four, is adamantly against the practice. "We weren't made incorrectly," she said. "There was no jab God forgot to give that we now need."

While the Canadian doctors aren't sure if the practice should be routine, the American Academy of Pediatrics has now come out and stated that it's okay to offer, but they stopped short of an outright recommendation. As with any parenting decision, it's best to research and discuss with your child's caregiver to make the best choice for you and your baby.

More on vaccines

Can vaccinations hurt your kids?
What's behind the "safe shot" approach to vaccines?
Vaccines during pregnancy

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