Unvaccinated Family & Friends & the New Baby

Parent Q&A

Parents of newborns- how are you handling visitors during Covid? Jun 20, 2021 (8 responses below)
Baby on the way -- managing friends who don't vaccinate Jun 12, 2019 (11 responses below)
New baby - grandparents don't want to get Tdap Mar 25, 2019 (32 responses below)
  • We have a two month old, and we are navigating having visitors over. All of our adult family members are vaccinated, but we do have young nieces and nephews who cannot be vaccinated yet. Understandably, both adults and kids want to see and hold the baby, but we have continued to be pretty cautious even with the adults. We are wondering how other parents of newborns are handling this issue both with the vaccinated adults and the unvaccinated kids? Do you have different rules for indoors and outdoors? And is there a source where have you been getting your guidance on this issue?

    So I don't have a newborn yet, but will in October. Our plan is only vaccinated persons can hold baby. Any unvaccinated person must keep their distance and wear a mask around baby. I do not plan to have unvaccinated people go unmasked around baby even if we are outdoors. It feels too risky to me. I don't have any specific sources  to cite, but I've just been following the CDC and taking a more cautious approach. If you have Instagram, I highly recommend checking out @pedsdoctalk she is a pediatrician who discusses COVID a lot and is also super practical about the reality of everyday life. I also like @kinggutterbaby she is an infectious disease specialist who has been working with COVID closely, she hosts really approachable Q&A sessions about COVID on her page and breaks down all the new research. Finally, there is a FB group called Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support for Bay Area Families, its a really respectful group to ask questions and people only share valid research articles there. Hope that helps! Congrats on the new baby!

    I found this write-up in the NYT super helpful about how low risk kids are (even infants!). 


    However, if you are still going to be cautious, I'd recommend doing an outdoor thing.  NYT also had a great write-up of how it's pretty much impossible for Covid to spread outdoors:


    Also, I always made sure people didn't even have the sniffles when coming over and of course, everyone washes hands! :-)

    My daughter is 8.5 months old, so we had to navigate the newborn phase in a totally unvaccinated state. We were very strict. Post vaccine—must be vaccinated to hold. Pre-vaccine: must quarantine for 2 weeks.
    Inside only with one other household. Outside with no more than 5 households. We’ve been very strict about other people holding her—only grandparents if other family are there. It’s hard, but even vaccinated people can transmit and it’s just not a risk we want to take. We spend a lot of time weighing the benefits and risk. At the moment, we’re in a pandemic window, so we’ve been a little looser. But with the delta variant on the rise, we’re preparing to reign it in again. 

  • 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.

    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.  

  • Our first child is going to be born any day now.  His paternal grandparents don't believe in immunizations and don't want to get a Tdap that our pediatrician is recommending for all the grandparents (must be within the last two years).  It is a very delicate situation, with their physician saying they don't need to be immunized and us feeling they need to honor our choices on how to protect our child.   They want to come see the baby a month after he is born.    Any thoughts on how to handle this? 

    Honestly--you just say no. Whether or not they want to get the vaccination is up to them, but whether or not unvaccinated friends and family are in close proximity to your newborn is up to you. I think you (and by "you" I mean your husband, who needs to handle this given that it involves his parents) just kindly let them know that you respect their decision, but it means you will need to plan a time for them to meet the baby after he finishes the DTaP vaccine series at six months. In the meantime you can FaceTime or otherwise let them connect with him from afar. Then stick to it. Pertussis isn't something to mess around with.

    I'd be very blunt, and say that without the vaccine they will not get to see the baby, period. The tdap is not to protect them, but the baby, and in the end you are your partners are the gatekeepers. If they think not meeting their grandchild is less important than taking a shot, their loss. 

    With you presumably getting vaccinated my understanding is that it should help protect baby for 2 months after they're born, but I understand your concern and would side with your instincts. If they don't want to comply with your wishes you may want to ask that they postpone a visit until after baby can be immunized. 

    Whooping cough is no joke: https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-whooping-cough-death-20180717-story.html

    Good luck.