Get an updated whooping cough vaccination
June 25, 2018

Q:  My granddaughter recently had a baby which is my first great grandchild. I didn’t go to the hospital because I had a cold and didn’t want to pass on any germs. I was just informed I can not see the baby unless I have an updated vaccination for whopping cough. I think she is being a little unreasonable. I am an elderly woman and had all of my shots years ago. Is there any logical reason for her to take this attitude?

A:   There is actually some merit to the stance your granddaughter has taken. You may feel she is being overprotective, the information we are providing may shed some light on the reason for her insistence about the vaccination.

Occasionally a commercial appears on television showing an older woman turning into the “big bad wolf” coughing around an infant. While it may seem extreme to portray grandma in this ad, if it catches someone’s attention than it has accomplished what it was intended to do. The message encourages older adults to get an updated whooping cough vaccination.

Whooping cough (pertussis) spreads easily from person to person. It usually starts off as a cold and the individual may not even realize how sick they are until their condition deteriorates. It can be extremely dangerous for an infant to be exposed to the germs.

Most adults had the recommended inoculations when they were younger so naturally assume they are protected and would not run the risk of infecting anyone else. The problem is immunity to bacteria can wear off over time thus the reason to get a booster shot. The upside to the additional vaccination is it protects an adult against tetanus and diptheria in addition to whooping cough. The recommended schedule is to get a booster shot every 10 years.

Speak with your primary care physician to find out if you are due for any updated vaccinations. Your doctor will also be aware if there is any medical reason for you not to get a booster shot. There are some individuals who do not believe in getting vaccinated and that is their personal choice. Your granddaughter is doing what she feels is necessary to protect her new infant.


Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.

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