Parenting class a shot in the arm for young families

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 2, 2012 - 8:17 AM

If you take a class for new parents or grandparents at Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, you may get more than the usual tips about handling newborns.

If you're willing, you may also get a vaccine.

As whooping cough rates have shot up nationally, the hospital has gone out of its way during the past year to promote immunization to families expecting a new baby.

And that includes offering the Tdap vaccine (for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) right on the spot, in class or even in the postpartum delivery unit.

It's all part of a campaign to take advantage of a captive audience, says Margaret Adams, the hospital's quality director.

Because babies can't start getting the vaccine until they're 2 months old, the best way to protect them is to make sure everyone around them is vaccinated. The concept, Adams said, is called cocooning: "wrapping that newborn in safety."

To adults, pertussis (aka whooping cough) may feel no worse than a cold, but to infants it can be fatal.

At Lakeview, most new moms are vaccinated automatically, Adams said. The trick was to get the message to the rest of the family, especially new dads and grandparents.

"This meant seizing the moment where you've got the excitement and the joy of a newborn joining the family," she said. "They're ready to hear the message. And it's a perfect opportunity for them to receive that vaccine."

The campaign has had an impact. In all, 275 family members received the Tdap shots between June 2011, when the project started, and September 2012, the hospital says. That compares to zero in the five months before it started.

It's also getting noticed. Last week, Lakeview won an annual award from the Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety for "significant and lasting contributions."

Adams said the program is also a chance to address fears about vaccine safety and balance them with scientific information, "so they can weigh the risks and benefits."

maura.lerner@startribune.com

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