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Vaccine Update

Good news on the vaccine front: First up, I finally found out where adults can get the whooping cough shot (also called Tdap, which stands for Tetanus, Diptheria, and Acellular Pertussis). Hooray! I found out the other day, interestingly enough, by interviewing Keri Russell. If you remember from my post about her last movie, Waitress, she's one of my favorite actresses. But that's not why I was talking to her. The reason I was interviewing her is because she's the celebrity spokesperson for the "Silence the Sounds of Pertussis" campaign, which was just launched by a group called Parents of Kids with Infections Diseases (PKIDs).

As a new mom, Keri is concerned that unvaccinated parents and caregivers can pass whooping cough on to their newborns before the babies are fully vaccinated (whooping cough can be life-threatening to an infant). While I was well aware of this issue — as you may know from my fertility blog — I still didn't have an easy answer as to how to get your doctor to give you the shot (since both my internist and my husband's internist weren't familiar with the vaccine or didn't have it). So, I asked Keri and the people working on the campaign where to get the vaccine, and finally, I got the answer:

All you have to do is go to adacel-locator.com (Adacel is the brand name of the Tdap vaccine), and type in your zip code — and up pops doctors in your area who can give you the shot. Such a relief. I immediately sent the link to my husband and parents so that they can all go out and get vaccinated. Thank you, Keri Russell. I am now an even bigger fan.

In other vaccine news, I also made my decision about the flu shot. I opted to get it — and I did just that, yesterday. In addition to double-checking the recommendations of major medical organizations, I went in to see my internist, and she whole-heartedly recommended I get it (she got it when she was pregnant).

She confirmed that getting the flu when pregnant does increase your risk of getting hospitalized. And even if you don't develop serious complications or pneumonia, getting the flu could cause you and the baby to be dehydrated and slightly malnourished. Also, as with any infection, the influenza virus could even bring on pre-term labor, especially late in pregnancy. (Not good.) She also mentioned that some people think that immunity tends to be lowered when you're pregnant, so I'm potentially more likely to be susceptible to the flu this season (not to mention the fact that I'm going to be commuting into and around New York City every day).

As for the mercury issue, my doc also told me that the miniscule amount of mercury in the flu shot (I got the Fluvirin vaccine, fyi), was far less than the amount of mercury in one tuna steak. And she's right — the Fluvirin pamphlet I checked confirms it. Another health writer friend of mine also pointed out to me that a doctor we consult sometimes, Dr. Ari Brown, author of Baby 411, once told her that, "One 5.6 oz can of tuna has about 0.115mg of mercury. A thimerosal-containing flu vaccine has about 0.025mg of mercury. Computation: There is five times more mercury in a tuna fish sandwich."

So, basically, I haven't heard any evidence that the flu shot has any negative effects in pregnant women or their babies. And as far as I can tell, the real risk of getting the flu far outweighs the unknown risks of the vaccine.

In short, I'm happy with my decision. I'm sure future parenting decisions will have much clearer answers. Yeah, right.

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