Let me start with this: I don’t like shots… and I am not very trusting of vaccines. I have always been the type to proudly claim “If it won’t kill me, I don’t need the shot.” Flu shot? One, I don’t want that sharp needle stabbing me. Two, I’d rather suffer through the flu for a few days than wonder what exactly got injected into my blood. I am young, I am healthy, and I am strong… I don’t need it. That all changed about eight months ago.
From the moment I first learned that my wife was pregnant, there is a phrase I have said to myself frequently: It is not about me any longer. I hadn’t even seen this child yet, but I knew the truth. I felt it. From this day forward, I would always put myself second to someone else. So, when my wife mentioned this vaccine for whooping cough to me, I reacted with my natural, instinctive cringe… but I am typing this post with a Band-Aid on my left arm and a fresh Tdap vaccine running in my blood. If you are a parent or grandparent, I encourage you to do the same.
Whooping cough (pertussis) is an illness I come across very rarely. Even in the petri dish I work in (elementary school) I never see it. Kids are vaccinated against it… most adults are too… why worry? Well, it turns out there is a very good reason to worry. Newborns don’t start their road to vaccination until they are two months old, and they only get limited protection from Mom’s immunization at birth. Did you know that roughly 50% of babies who get whooping cough will be hospitalized for it? Did you know 80% of babies who contract the disease will catch it from someone at home? Dozens of newborn babies still die from whooping cough each year. Even when it is not fatal, effects of the serious illness will often include bleeding in the eyes or brain, pneumonia, seizures, fractured ribs, or unconsciousness.
The vaccines given to kids should eradicate it, though, right? Nope. Wrong again. The number of whooping cough cases is actually rising each year. Many adults do not realize they need a Tdap booster shot to stay protected. Thus, more grown ups are picking the bacteria up and then passing it on to the most vulnerable: newborn babies.
The good news? Protecting our kids from whooping cough is incredibly easy. Go to your doctor or local clinic and get an inexpensive booster shot. Your insurance most likely covers it, anyway. It is a good idea for all adults to get this done, but it is especially important that pregnant women, Dads, grandparents, and caregivers get their vaccine updated. This goes double for those frequently exposed to illness, such as healthcare workers or teachers. When you do this, you form that circle of protection around your child and gain a lot more peace of mind.
As for me? I survived. The stab of the needle was not even felt. Is my arm a little sore? Yes. But it is not about me anymore. A little shot and a little soreness is nothing when it comes to protecting my baby from this terrible disease. I will even get that dreaded flu shot this year… anything for my little girl. So, if you are a Dad like me, a guy who hates needles and avoids a shot like the plague, take my advice…. suck it up, get stuck, and know that your baby thanks you for it.