Take a shot

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Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor
Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor

I have two major deal-breakers for friends: If you have purchased a pet from a breeder, or if you are anti-vaccination, especially for your child, I am going to seriously re-evaluate the friendship.

I'm willing to hear you out on the first point, as perhaps you didn't realize how many options your local shelter had, or you had a bad experience with an insane rescue group or maybe — MAYBE — because you need some sort of specific hypoallergenic designer pooch.

But I'm not inclined to negotiate on the second point, especially with the news recently that the Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-acellular-pertussis) vaccine is safe and effective for older adults.

You may remember pertussis, or whooping cough, as the disease that used to kill a large number of babies before the vaccine for it was developed sixty years ago. Yet states are reporting an increase in cases in 2012.

Unfortunately, the vaccine can't be given to young infants, and half of those under a year old who contact pertussis will end up in the hospital.  Of those who are hospitalized, 23% will get pneumonia, and 1.6% will die.

Fewer than 10% of adults have received a Tdap booster, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says. The hope is that as more adults who are vaccinated, we will create what is called a “herd immunity.” That's essentially saying as a community, we want to protect the weakest and most vulnerable of our herd. 

Whether we are in a healthcare environment, around young children, or just want to be good citizens, it's up to us to stay up-to-date on our vaccinations. It's also up to us to have our child or children vaccinated.

Many times parents against vaccination will say they don't care about the larger community. They want to do “what's best for their child” and have convinced themselves that this means no vaccines, as if it's better to pretend we live in some sort of 18th century village where no modern medicine, regular sanitation or Whole Foods were available. Apart from being selfish in regards to those who have infants — so much for “it takes a village” — it's also putting your own child at risk for a serious illness.

For all the hue and cry about healthcare reform, the bottom line remains that adults, including healthcare workers, can make conscious choices about their health: Most of the time it's up to you whether you get a flu shot, or go see a physician about that persistent cough.  It's also your call whether you get a Tdap booster shot.

But I'm urging you, especially if you are around infants, to do so. When you do, you're not only protecting those around you, you are setting an example of doing the right thing.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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