This guest post by Serese Marotta, Chief Operating Officer of Families Fighting Flu, is part of the CDC Flu Blog-A-Thon held in honor of National Influenza Vaccination Week.
As parents, we do everything we can to protect our children. We buckle them into their car seats, make them wear their bike helmets, hold their hand while crossing the street, and even get them their recommended childhood vaccinations. But what about getting our kids the flu vaccine?
Sadly, only about 42% of adults and 60% of children received their annual flu vaccine last season.
These statistics may not mean much to you, unless you or a loved one have had a personal experience with the flu. But they haunt me every day. As a mother who lost her healthy, five-year-old son, Joseph, during the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, I want to do everything I can to ensure no other child dies from flu.
Despite what many people may believe, influenza is not like the common cold. Influenza is a very serious and highly contagious disease that tends to develop quickly, especially in children. Influenza can also lead to hospitalization or death, even in otherwise healthy individuals. Every year in the U.S., approximately 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized, and on average, 100 children die each year from flu infection and its complications. According to the CDC, 80 to 90 percent of pediatric flu deaths over the past few years have been in unvaccinated children, many of whom were otherwise healthy.
This is why I am writing this article and telling Joseph’s story again, in hopes that it will save someone else from losing a loved one to flu.
As a mother, I have always tried my best to protect my kids, including getting them vaccinated against the flu every year. When my son Joseph was in kindergarten, he received his annual flu vaccine on September 26, 2009. Unfortunately, the H1N1 flu strain was just developing, and it was not included in the seasonal vaccine that year. On October 9th he threw up a few times and became increasingly lethargic. Our pediatrician suggested we take him to the local urgent care and upon arrival, they found his blood oxygen level to be very low. They immediately transported him to the local children’s hospital where a rapid flu test came back negative and he was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia.
Several days into his hospital stay, the doctors informed us that Joseph’s culture was growing influenza, which was likely H1N1, but not to worry—it was “just the flu”.
Make purchases throughout the year with AmazonSmile and Every Child By Two could receive .5% of the price of your eligible purchases as a charitable donation to help in their mission to educate people about vaccines.
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The only difference is that when you first visit AmazonSmile, you’ll make a few clicks to designate Every Child By Two as your charitable organization of choice. From that point on, every purchase – whether it’s holiday gifts or household necessities – will result in automatic donations to Every Child By Two, at no added cost to you!
It may seem like pennies to you, but last year, Every Child By Two embarked on an ambitious mission and every penny helped.
They started the new year by launching the Vaccinate Your Family website and Facebook page to help educate people about the importance of vaccines throughout the life span, and they’ve made great strides in reaching new audiences with timely news and evidence based information. In fact, for nearly 25 years, Every Child by Two has been a credible resource for reliable, science-based information about vaccines and their safety.
Every Child By Two is committed to improving vaccination rates at all ages, but they need your continued support.
All the donations they receive help fund their ongoing efforts to educate the public about the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases and the critical importance of following the recommended immunization schedule. They also provide critical support for the development of educational programs, as well as strong immunization policies aimed at protecting families from vaccine-preventable diseases.
They have accomplished so much, but there is still much to be done.
Nationwide adult vaccination rates remain dismally low, and only about half of pregnant women are getting the recommended vaccines that can help pass immunity on to their unborn children. There are still many preteens and teens that are not fully protected from meningococcal and HPV. And people of all ages continue to suffer and die from vaccine preventable diseases.
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Losing your 20 year old healthy child to flu is something no parent ever expects to happen.
by Franki Andersen
Seven months ago, I lost my beautiful daughter, Brittany Danielle Andersen, at the age of 20. I’m sharing her story so that parents and young adults will know that the flu doesn’t just take young kids and old people. It takes whomever it wants at any age.
As a mother, there is nothing worse than seeing your child sick and hospitalized. When Britt was young she loved to sing, dance, play on her swing set and dress up. But we had a few medical scares in those early years. In fact, she was on life support four times between the ages of 18 months and 6 years due to repeated bouts of strep throat that would effect her lungs. But then, after a surgery to remove her tonsils and adnoids, she never got sick again, and I was grateful that those hospital days were behind us.
That was, until she fell ill with influenza A earlier this year.
It was a Thursday, March 24th and she said her throat was itchy so she picked up some TheraFlu before I dropped her at her dads’ house. I talked to her later that evening to see how she was feeling, and I could hear how the sore throat had altered her voice. But she said that she was fine.
The next day, her father dropped her off before work. She stood in the doorway for a minute and when I asked her if she was coming in, her reply was “I don’t quite feel like myself”.
I asked her if she had breakfast and she said no, so she had some toast and juice before going to lie down. I propped her up with some pillows so she was sitting upright on her bed and about fifteen minutes later I checked in on her and asked how she was. Her reply was simply “Ok” but that obviously wasn’t true because those were the last words she ever said to me.
Around 11:45, I heard a weird rattle coming from her room. I went in and found her lying on her back. When I tried to wake her, I noticed white saliva coming out of her mouth. I called 911, and when they got there, they could not get a pulse. They worked on her for what seemed like eternity and then put her in the ambulance. I followed the ambulance to the hospital and at 2pm they told us they got a pulse back.
What a relief, I thought and collapsed into a chair.
They then life-flighted her to Sioux Falls, SD. When I arrived there the head nurse and lung doctor told me that she was not stabilizing. They had maxed out all the blood pressure meds they could give, and nothing was working. They said the word septis, which I was unfamiliar with at the time, and they told me I would need to “make a decision”.
At 6:30 am on Saturday, March 26th, 2016 I made that decision and my daughter was taken off of life support.
This guest post was written by Carolyn who works as a Home Health Community Nurse and who originally shared her son’s story on the Nurses Who Vaccinate blog to help raise awareness of the symptoms and dangers of pertussis.
My son is a healthy 16-year-old, middle linebacker for his Varsity football team. He jet skis, is an avid boater, plays lacrosse, and enjoys working out, eating healthy and exercising. I never suspected he would suffer with a vaccine preventable disease.
His cough was mild at first. Not a nagging cough, not a wet cough, just a mild cough. I asked my son if he was feeling well and although he said he was fine, I gave him cough syrup and took his temperature. It was normal (hint #1) and we both went to sleep, although I did hear him cough occasionally through the night.
This marked the beginning of the longest 7 weeks of our lives.
The occasional cough continued for a week, but then I noticed it was worsening, and it was making him very short of breath. One day he called me from school and asked me to pick him up. I took him to urgent care, where they diagnosed him with bronchitis, gave him amoxicillin, put him on a five-day dose of prednisone and gave him an inhaler.
That night was the beginning of the nightmare. He coughed so violently that he became short of breath. He was gasping and choking and even began vomiting (hint #2). This continued through the next day and night. He was exhausted. I was exhausted. And even though I am a nurse, I felt helpless.
I took him to the local Emergency Department where the pediatric physician prescribed an albuterol nebulizer and a chest X-ray. The chest x-ray came back crystal clear (hint #3). When I questioned the doctor about the vomiting, they suspected it was due to a gag reflex, but they decided to give him saline for dehydration and take blood and urine samples.
All of his blood work came back fine except for his neutrophils and his monocytes which were only slightly elevated (hint #4). They treated him as a case of atypical pneumonia and put him on a five-day dose of Zithromax and advised us to continue the prednisone until finished.
During the next 10 days, as he completed the medications, my son continued to have these bouts of uncontrollable violent coughing, always resulting in vomiting, choking on phlegm and gasping. He was eating, but also losing weight, and he was in and out of school, often due to being up all night coughing.
One evening he vomited in the basin where I noticed black stringy flecks. I immediately thought it was blood, but he assured me it was something he had eaten. The next morning he vomited again, and this time it was phlegm with blackened red strings (hint #5). I put the vomit in a baggie, put him in the car and took him back to the emergency room.
His sample tested positive for blood and so they gave him several nebulizer treatments, upped his prednisone, repeated the chest x-ray (which again came back clear), prescribed the inhaler every four hours and released him. With the increased prednisone, the cough did slow down a bit, but he still was vomiting phlegm and gasping, so I made a follow-up appointment with his physician where they did a thorough exam and diagnosed him with pertussis.
Pertussis? Really? How did my healthy kid get whooping cough? I was diligent in getting him vaccinated. How did three different doctors miss this?
A flu vaccine is recommended for every one age 6 months and older because preventing the flu is better than suffering with it. The real danger of flu is not just in the fever, cough, congestion, extreme fatigue and muscle aches that can cause people to be ill for a week or more, it’s the fact that influenza causes thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year.
Getting a flu shot not only helps to protect us from getting the flu ourselves, but it means we are less likely to spread the virus to those who are more vulnerable to complications from the flu. This includes young children, pregnant women, infants too young to be vaccinated, older individuals, and people with weakened immune systems. In fact, children account for about 20,000 hospitalizations and roughly 100 deaths from influenza each year.
Unfortunately, this year we are hearing that some parents are opting to skip the flu vaccine for their children simply because the nasal flu mist – also known as the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) – is no longer recommended or available this season.
As a mother, I know it can be difficult to deal with children who have anxiety over shots and needles, and no parent likes to see their children in pain. However, when parents skip shots for their children, they are more likely to have to watch their children suffer with the flu, which is much more dangerous than any short-lived anxiety over getting a needle in the arm. In some cases, the flu can be devastating and even fatal, especially for young children.
Consider Gianna’s story.
Her mother, father and brother were all vaccinated in 2015. But by January, they still hadn’t gotten around to getting two and a half-year old Gianna vaccinated. She fell sick on January 8th, and by January 10th she had died from influenza.
With Gianna, like we see with many children, everything happened so fast. She started feeling ill at daycare. The next morning her pediatrician confirmed that she had the H3N2 influenza virus and prescribed antivirals. But the infection spread quickly and the antivirals didn’t even have time to kick in.
Later that evening, Gianna called out to her mother as she lay beside her in bed. It would be the last time she would hear Gianna’ voice. Read more…
Last week, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) held it’s third and final meeting of 2016. The agenda included presentations pertaining to hepatitis B, pertussis, HPV, meningococcal, herpes zoster, pneumococcal and RSV vaccines, and surveillance updates on Zika and influenza viruses.
During the two-day meeting, the committee took nine votes on newly proposed vaccine recommendations that addressed vaccination timing, number of doses needed, and dosing intervals for hepatitis B, pertussis, HPV and meningococcal vaccines. They also approved the child, adolescent and adult immunization schedules.
This post provides a recap of each agenda item in the order they occurred.
Hepatitis B Vaccine
The recommended first dose of the three-series hepatitis B vaccine is often referred to as “birth dose” and is typically administered to infants in the hospital after birth. At this meeting, the Hepatitis B Work Group asked that the Committee consider removal of the permissive language that appears at the end of the recommendation which allows for a delay of the birth dose until after hospital discharge.
When hepatitis B vaccine is administered within 24 hours of birth it can help prevent transmission of the hepatitis B virus from an infected mother to her child. The intent of the birth dose is to provide an additional safety net to prevent transmission from HepB positive mothers that are not properly identified due to errors in maternal testing or reporting. In these instances, when the mother is not properly identified as HepB positive before birth, the HepB vaccine alone is 75% effective in preventing prenatal transmission, and 94% effective when used in conjunction with Hepatitis B immune globulin.
Since delaying hepatitis B vaccination can interfere with the prevention of Hepatitis B – especially in a child unknowingly born to a HepB positive mother – the HepB Work Group proposed that the reference to delaying vaccination be removed from the recommendation. It had originally been added in 2005, but the data suggests that administering the birth dose in the hospital leads to timely completion of the series. The current birth dose coverage was stated to be 72.4% of children, which remains below the Healthy People 2020 goal of 84%.
The Committee voted to remove the permissive language as well as include new language to clarify that the first dose of vaccine should be administered within 24 hours of birth, which is more explicit than “before hospital discharge”.
The anticipated changes to the previous recommendation are indicated below, however the exact wording may differ once published by the CDC:
“For all medically stable infants weighing 2,000 grams or more at birth and born to HBsAg-negative mothers, the first dose of vaccine should be administered
before hospital dischargewithin 24 hours of birth. Only single antigen HepB vaccine should be used for the birth dose. On a case-by-case basis and only in rare circumstances, the first dose may be delayed until after hospital discharge for an infant who weighs 2,000 grams or more and whose mother is HBsAG-negative”.
*It should be noted that for those infants with birth weight of less than 2,000 grams, the birth dose is not counted as part of the vaccine series.
There was some discussion concerning the removal of the option to delay vaccination and it was emphasized that having a clear recommendation from the ACIP is not a vaccine mandate. Rather, practitioners, public health professionals and parents rely on the ACIP recommendations as expert guidance and best practice. The Hepatitis B “birth dose” has been a successful strategy to help eliminate hepatitis B virus transmission in the U.S., and the ACIP’s revised recommendations only emphasize the importance of vaccinating within the 24 hours timeframe that will help prevent further transmission.
Other key updates to the hepatitis B vaccine recommendations included:
- Providing examples of chronic liver disease, including recommending HepB vaccine for persons with HCV infection.
- Post vaccination serologic testing for infants who’s mother’s HBsAg status remains unknown indefinitely.
- Testing HBsAg-positive pregnant women for HBV DNA.
For more information as to why babies need a Hepatitis B vaccine at birth, read these Shot of Prevention blog posts here.
The Committee reviewed the history of Tdap vaccination in pregnant women and reviewed studies that found that maternal Tdap vaccination to both safe and effective at preventing infant pertussis. Read more…