Nothing brings family together more than the birth of a new loved one. It’s exciting to shower with love and cradle the newest addition to the family.

Part of taking care of this vulnerable baby is to protect against transmittable diseases. For new grandparents, the two vaccines that are necessary before contact with your new bundle of joy is the annual influenza vaccine and the whooping cough vaccine.

Babies are unable to be vaccinated for influenza until 6 months of age, and it’s a two-shot vaccine, so they will not be protected until they’re 7 months old. Infants are one of the highest risk groups for severe infection and possible death if they become ill. To keep the little ones healthy, one strategy is to vaccinate everyone around the infant.

Whooping cough is also extremely contagious and can be deadly for babies, especially younger than 2 months of age. Because of this, pregnant women are recommended to have this vaccine with every pregnancy in the third trimester, to transmit the antibodies of protection from the vaccine to the fetus for added protection after birth. Adults, siblings and grandparents can also help cocoon the baby by being up-to-date with their whooping cough vaccine.

The optimal timing for these vaccines is at least two weeks before coming in contact, as that is about how long it takes for the body to mount an immune and protective response.

No other vaccines are specifically recommended before coming into contact with babies, but it makes sense to have all the other age appropriate vaccines up-to-date to stay healthy. Healthy grandparents mean more time to spend with the family.

Vaccine Smarts is written by Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences faculty members Drs. Megan Berman, an associate professor of internal medicine, and Richard Rupp, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch. For questions about vaccines, email vaccine.smarts@utmb.edu.

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