It's now just over a year since Dana McCaffery died. Dana was just 4 weeks old and died of Whooping Cough (Pertussis), which is preventable through vaccinations. However, babies cannot receive their first vaccination for Whooping Cough until they are at least two months old. So in the time between birth and 2 months of age they rely on the immunity passed from mother to child prior to birth and on the mother's anti-bodies in their milk. They also rely on those around them, who also have a lot of contact with them, to be immunised against this disease (father, grandparents, health nurses, etc). However, the vaccination wanes after 10 to 12 years and the vast majority of adults do not receive their booster injections, so 90% of adults or more are no longer immunised. Vaccination is only effective if the majority of the community does it (called herd immunity), so with the vast majority of people no longer being immunised, outbreaks of Whooping Cough are much more likely to occur.
I was horrified when a friend told me that she visited her doctor prior to pregnancy and asked if there were any preparations she should make before having a baby. He dismissed her saying that she was young and healthy.
On the other hand, when I went in for a check up prior to pregnancy I was told to get a Whooping Cough vaccination at least three months prior to conceiving in order to protect myself and my unborn baby, but also to protect my newborn once she arrived. Maya would have received my Whooping Cough anti-bodies prior to birth as well as in my breast milk. As well, I was told that Greg needed to get the booster prior to the birth of our baby girl in order to further protect her from this horrible disease.
As Maya's parents we are the ones most in contact with our little girl and it makes obvious sense for us to be vaccinated properly in order to protect our child. Really everyone who will be in regular contact with your child should be fully immunised and that is the recommendation from the Australian government: "It is also recommended that new parents or women planning on becoming pregnant (and members of their household or family) receive a booster dose of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine to protect the new baby from whooping cough in the first months of life." (cited from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Whooping_cough).
So if it's been ten years or more since you had a booster dose of the pertussis vaccine then please consider having it in order to protect not only our young and helpless but also those who cannot be vaccinated and yourself. Please also vaccinate your children.
My sincere heartfelt condolences go out to Toni and David McCaffery. I cannot begin to imagine their suffering. But at a time when most people would fall in a heap and never get up again, they are fighting for a world where newborns do not die from a disease we can protect them from.