Baby on the way -- managing friends who don't vaccinate

We are expecting our second baby later this summer. We have followed the recommended vaccine schedule w/our son and are planning to do the same for new baby -- however, over the last couple weeks, we've learned that the 2 neighbor families we have playdates with most often are both unvaccinated. Since the new baby won't get an MMR vaccine until they're a year old, and measles has been popping up all over the Bay in the last 6 months or so, we're wondering if that means we ought to keep baby away from those kids for the first year. We're comfortable w/Big Brother continuing to play with them since he's up to date on shots, but just b/c of how family/childcare dynamics are likely to work out, in practice this would mean considerably less time w/these friends for him as well.

I'm explicitly not looking to start a debate about the pros and cons of vaccinating -- my spouse and I have our opinion, others have theirs. But we are at a bit of a loss with how to manage this mess.

It seems like our choices are: 1) bring baby along to playdates and keep our fingers crossed, the same way we'll be doing at the park, grocery store, and other public places. 2) limit contact w/these families to times when Big Brother can go and baby can stay behind. Big Brother is still a little young for dropoff playdates (will have just turned 3 when baby arrives), and I'd also feel awkward being basically unable to reciprocate. Finally, I'd be worried about how to explain the change in routine to Big Brother (this would be a major reduction in time spent together, from 2-3 times a week to maybe once every couple weeks) especially in a way that wouldn't prompt resentment of baby for it being 'their fault.'

Planning to ask the pediatrician at our next well-child visit and get her thoughts, but since I'm sure we're not the first family to encounter this conflict, I wondered if anyone out there had any words of wisdom for making things easier.

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I would put playdates with these neighbors on a temporary hold for a year until your baby is immunized, including playdates with your older child. No vaccine is 100% effective so even though big brother has all his shots, there is still a small chance he could bring something home if one of the neighbor kids becomes infected. You could explain to him how he is protected from bad germs because he got his shots, but the baby can't get the shot till she is one, so everyone in the family has to pitch in to protect the baby until then.

My own kids are young adults, but when I was a kid, we didn't even have a polio vaccine until I was in 2nd grade, let alone MMR, hepatitis, whooping cough, all the rest. I knew kids who'd had polio and could only walk with steel braces that went from from their waist to their ankles. Some of these kids did not survive childhood. My siblings and I and most kids we knew got the measles, the mumps, the chicken pox. I remember the measles being pretty awful, but you knew you'd eventually get well because so many of your friends had been through it and recovered. But not every kid recovered.  My baby cousin got the measles and he developed encephalitis, which is one of the risks of having the measles. I remember being allowed to visit him before he died, and the shock of seeing a very sick baby lying very still in a bassinet is still with me. I was only 5 or 6 at the time.  We are very fortunate to have vaccines now for so many childhood diseases like measles.  

If I had a baby right now I would be worried too. The measles epidemic is scary, and there are so many in our community who don't understand why it's so important to vaccinate. I don't think you need to be a recluse for a year, but I would definitely take precautions to avoid kids who are unvaccinated.

If you’re trying to figure out how to talk to your neighbors and not feel awkward, there was a very recent very good thread on this about family members called “Grandparents don’t want to get tdap” that I recommend reading. 

If you want some support for your concern and to know you’re not alone, here’s my anecdote. We were in a similar situation with two kids during the 2014-2015 measles outbreak. Our baby was too young to be vaccinated for measles and our older kid was around a lot of kids of unknown vaccination status. I didn’t ask every parent at the playground about their family’s vaccination status, but I did avoid interactions with families who I knew did not vaccinate. If the question came up, I made it clear that I didn’t want get into a vaccination debate, but I was not willing to risk regularly having my infant around unvaccinated people.

I discussed my concerns with my pediatrician, and we decided that my young child’s risk wasn’t high enough to justify an early vaccination schedule, but it was high enough to boost my older child’s measles vaccine early. So I opted to do that. This meant more shots for the older child because he was still too young for the combo vaccine. So he got the short end of that stick.

I have found that with multiple kids there are many times when the needs of one child will take priority over the needs of the other, and this has to be weighed and juggled throughout their lives for both big and small things. At this stage, the health of your baby may take priority over your older child’s play dates. Later maybe your older child’s school obligations will take priority over the younger child’s nap schedule (or not). The point is this is one of many times when you have to make a choice to prioritize one over the other. 

Specifically concerning the risk of vaccine preventable diseases - there are many risks in your child’s life and you have to decide which ones you’re comfortable with. The probability your baby will get some vaccine preventable disease from your older child’s friends is low, but it’s there. Frankly it’s more likely that the baby would get flu or whooping cough than measles - both can be deadly to infants. But, riding in a car kills more kids than vaccine preventable diseases, and almost everyone puts their kids in a car without a second thought. There’s also a real risk to your mental health, stress level, and sense of community if you miss out on regular interactions with friends and neighbors and get fewer breaks from your older child during a hectic transition. 

There’s not a right or wrong decision here, just the one that makes you most comfortable given the low risk combined with the potential trade offs and consequences. Do what makes you comfortable no matter what other people think.

This is a tough one, and only you can make the risk-benefit analysis as it applies to your family.  Personally, the fact that vaccine preventable diseases are coming back is terrifying and I felt such relief when my youngest got the last whooping cough vaccine and recently when he finally got his last MMR vaccine.  I went as far as to give my youngest the booster early since I live in the Bay Area where many don't vaccinate and the risk of MMR seems to be increasing.  Personally, I would allow outside playdates with those unvaccinated kids if they are completely healthy at the time, but not allow those kids to come into my home where the air does not circulate as well and they might interact with the baby until the baby at the very least has the first couple of Tdap vaccines protecting it from whooping cough, and then allow limited exposure until the baby gets the MMR vaccine.  It is unfortunate, but protecting the baby is worth it even though I fully realize that the risk is small, but it is preventable risk which makes it different than getting a baby into a car which is necessary risk to take.  I would tell the other family the truth that the uprise in those illnesses makes you worry for your baby and you are keeping it isolated as much as possible and you cannot expose the baby to unvacinated children with the outbreaks happening in our area.  They should understand as long as you don't come across as judgmental but rather make it about only protecting your baby and not their decision as it applies to their kids.  Good luck.  

I would wait to let either of your children engage with unvaccinated kids until your baby is fully vaccinated. It's unfortunate, but hopefully your neighbors will understand. (Of course, trust your pediatrician's answer when you get it!)

Ran into the same problem and ultimately decided that play dates had to wait until my baby turned one and got her MMR vaccine. 

We had the same problem. I work in public health and just waited till my baby was 1 to be officially exposed to unvaccinated kids. We just had 55 cases of measles in CA. Measles is airborne so even if your older kid is immune it could still be a risk. But so is going out in crowds in general :/

I would find new friends. People that vaccinate. People I could reciprocate with. People who have the same values. 

Chances are your pediatrician won't know.  Sounds like you are asking for the facts.
Just returned from Europe and measles out break warning signs were at the border crossing.  Until your child is vacinated your chid is vulnerable. 
"Measles cases at highest for 20 years in Europe, as anti-vaccine movement grow." 

UCLA students who quarantined early this year and I remember a day care in San Diego where on little boy who had vacationed in Switzerland spread measles to (I think it was 100) other kids in the community.  The heath department quartered entire families and made them stay in their homes for 4 weeks.  So it's not like 30-40 years ago when almost every kid was vaccinated.  There are so many unvaccinated people out there that these deadly childhood disease are lurking out there.  I would put my children/family first.  Not trying to be mean or rude here but your are talking about deadly childhood diseases here. I would discontinue all play dates with non-vaccinated kids/families several weeks before delivery.  Remember if you or your kids come in contact with noni-vaccinated kids you can act as a carrier (Typhoid Mary) and spread the disease to others.

You are not living in a small city where few outsiders visit.  We are talking the Bay Area where you are directly or indirectly in contact with people from around the world.  All it takes is coming into contact with someone else who has been in contact with someone who has the disease.  And you don't even have to come in contact with the person either it can be a surface or clothing up to 10 days earlier. If this were 40 years ago when most kids were vaccinated and world travel wasn't very common you could get away with crossing your fingers.  But things are different now.  There have been way too many epidemic resulting in families being quarantined in their homes.  There is no way for you to know if your infant has been exposed until after the incubation period.  Not trying to scare you, but if your child has played with a "carrier" and you go into labor there is a chance, (very unlikely) but still a chance your child could unintentionally infect your newborn.

It's important to remember YOU are the one that's doing what's best for your children.  Don't be pressured into placing your child at risk just because of your friends beliefs.  Just as you respect your friends beliefs for not vaccinating.  If this is a "true friend" your friend she/he/they should respect your beliefs and not have any playdates until your infant is protected. 

Don't think you are alone either.  My father-in-law was never vaccinated.  We made him wait to see or touch his grandchild for about a year.  Our heatly vacinated child is doing well.  Unvacinated father-in-law in his mid-80s finaly got the chicken pox (shingles).  He's been in pain for the past 2 years.  What do you say to someone who is in such pain?  When you know that if only they had been vacinated they would not be in such pain.

Hope this gives you the information you need. 


I know there has been a lot of fear around this but please don’t worry about it so much. There are very few measles cases in California and only about 11 (!) have been in children. Out of those, only some are unvaccinated. Also, if a child is sick with the measles, whether vaccinated or not, they will have symptoms. Most likely your neighbors would keep their children home if they are sick. We vaccinate our kids, but have friends and relatives who don’t. I myself do not worry about the measles. I had it as a kid, as did most people I know. Good luck with your dilemma. 

I personally would only be concerned the first few months, and not against only “vaccine preventable” diseases, but all illness. I like the idea of cocooning for the first six weeks to let your newborn build an immune system-i know it’s difficult as you have another child. There are a couple things you have to consider when making your decision (that will affect your older child and his relationship with this family). One, the majority of adults are not up to date on their MMR boosters, so I would not be overly paranoid about a child not being vaccinated as we are walking amongst unvaccinated people all day, every day. Also, unfortunately dtap doesn’t stop individuals from spreading whooping cough, it only masks the symptoms, making it even more dangerous for young infants. So I think cocooning, washing hands frequently and not allowing anyone sick around your child is your best prevention. 

Ultimately what we want is to improve the health of everyone.  Vaccination is not a scientifically uncertain issue.  There is clearly a benefit and the risks are extremely rare and outweighed by the benefits.  Sure any parent can have a different opinion than you but there is a difference between having a different opinion such as “I think basketball is a better sport for our children to play than baseball” versus “I think it’s fine for our children to finger-paint with lead-based paint”.  The decision to not vaccinate one’s child is closer to the latter rather than the former.

We are a community of parents trying to thrive together.  It is not just about you protecting your child from your neighbors’ unvaccinated children.  All children deserve to have the best chance to live the healthiest life they can have not deterred by their own parents’ ignorance.  For your neighbors’ children’s sake and for the sake of all other babies they come in contact with other than your own, please consider taking a stronger stance and expressing concern about their decision not to vaccinate their children.  Of course they may not take well to it, depending on how fixed their misinformed beliefs are, but perhaps your interaction with them and having to confront the social cost of holding on to their misinformed beliefs would help them reconsider the sources of their misinformation.  And who knows?  You may never know about it, but you may end up saving a child elsewhere in the neighborhood or at their school from death or disability from a vaccine-preventable disease.