Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dear Friends, Family, Casual Acquaintances, Etc.:

Dr. S and I are happy* to tell you that we are expecting a child in December.

Unfortunately, winter is prime time for infections!  As you may know, vaccine refusal in combination with several other factors has led to a pertussis epidemic in the US.  Over 24,000 pertussis cases were reported to the CDC last year.  A large amount of data suggests that the pertussis vaccine essentially provides no protection after somewhere between 6 and 10 years, and that immunity begins to wane after 4 years in both children and adults.

The CDC's current recommendation is that adults receive a single pertussis booster shot, or with every pregnancy, or when over 65.  However, based on the overwhelming evidence indicating no pertussis immunity after ten years, we are asking that everyone who comes into contact with our child let us know they have had a pertussis or TDaP booster within the last ten years, and no less than a month before visiting.  Many health departments will provide this booster for free to all people who are in contact with infants.  We also ask that you receive an influenza vaccine for this winter's flu strains (2013/2014) at least a month before visiting.

If there is a medical reason you cannot be immunized, please let us know; we'll trust to our own (and the rest of our visitors' and families') immunizations to protect you as well as the baby.  If you are not comfortable with being vaccinated, then you are welcome to visit us any time after next August, when the baby will have received enough protection from her own vaccinations to be safer from these dangerous illnesses.


The Drs. Scientist

* Not really!  But let's pretend!

(Yes, I am really sending an email very like this to our friends and family.  It seemed nicer than 'Get your fucking shots and keep your unimmunized germbags the fuck away from us.')


  1. Anonymous8:26 AM

    More people need to send letters like this.

  2. Dr. Man and I are thinking of sending a similar email to everyone for our Kidlet due in October/November. We mentioned it in passing at Kiddo's birthday party a few weeks ago and the number of people offended was amazing.

    1. Now with more LINKS! I'm sure we'll offend everyone too. In fact, my mother is already offended. And yet. Data. Real, serious, preventable risks. I actually have emailed parents with infants frequently to let them know that I have had a pertussis booster and a flu shot and that my children are up to date on their shots, before we come over. The problem with personal decisions is when they have wide-ranging public health implications, you know?

      Besides. If they don't want to get their shots, they can come by next summer. But it's not negotiable.

  3. Griselda2:09 PM

    Awesome! Great idea! As an immunologist I endorse this. I'm taking my baby to California in a few weeks and I'm a bit worried for her (she'll be 7 months).

  4. hypatia cade8:43 PM

    I think I said something to the grandparents like "Our OB is recommending that you get this shot. Infants under 2 die of this. Most catch this from their grandparents." I expected a fight and was pleasantly surprised not to get one...

    1. While I applaud the success of your strategy, I think my mother (who's a PA) would take exception to 'most catch this from their grandparents' - studies variously show it as between five (or six!) and twenty-five percent of cases being due to grandparents. (She might buy "after immediate family, extended family is the next most likely".)

  5. Anonymous10:54 PM

    I may steal this. But yeah, I expect resistance, too.

    If (hoping, praying) everything goes well, my husband wants to go home for Christmas. I'm not so convinced yet... between the flight and the cold and all the possible bugs... but on the other hand, a 12h flight with a 2-month old must be easier than with a 9-month old. I'll need to look for a pediatrician and get his/her opinion, but in the meantime, if you have any data on whether that's a good idea, please let me know!
    (Also, I still cannot quite believe that you're just a month behind me.)

    1. My only piece of data is that in many (most) places in the US, an infant <3 mos old with a fever (even as from a cold) will usually get a meningitis work-up complete with spinal tap.

      And yes, in my experience, the smaller and more portable the child, the easier to travel with. However, 9 months will be in the summer and you're all less likely to get sick.... we didn't fly with the kids until they were 6 mos old + partly for vaccination reasons and partly for logistical/this will make me want to DIE reasons. Your mileage may vary. It's unfortunate that plane tickets must be purchased so far in advance.

      (I think it's more like seven weeks - Dec. 30- but biology is still amazing.)

    2. we opted out of flight with young infants because of the germs factor (this was not a well considered data driven decision, but rather we were on a flight when I was pregnant that got held upon landing while they escorted someone who had gotten sick off the flight and then had to communicate with Health Canada about the case to decide if they would quarantine the whole plane or let us deplane - thankfully we were allowed to leave - but the experience left us a bit shaken).
      Flying around 8 months wasnt that hard actually.
      We still havent gone for the overseas family visit, planning it for 3 almost 4 years, it was the jet lag with toddler that seemed scary before

    3. Anonymous10:27 PM

      Thank you both! The spinal tap thought sounds deeply unpleasant. We would be traveling overseas, so I'd need to find out how things are handled there, plus the insurance issue and related fun stuff.
      Sara, the germ story does sound scary. We'll definitely need to think some more about this.

    4. I can confirm the infant with fever gets a spinal tap. Though, I think it was after they'd drawn blood and found something growing. Luckily, it was a contaminant and my younger son wasn't deathly ill


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