Home > H1N1 Flu, In the News, Preventable Diseases, Seasonal Flu > H1N1 Survivor Urges College Kids To Get Vaccinated Against H1N1

H1N1 Survivor Urges College Kids To Get Vaccinated Against H1N1

By Amy Pisani

Speaking with reporters from college newspapers across the country, ECBT spokesperson and H1N1 survivor Luke Duvall, continued his advocacy work by spreading the word about the importance of college students attaining the H1N1 vaccine in the coming month.  Luke was joined on the call by Jason Rzepka Vice President, MTV Public Affairs, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Dr. Stephen Redd from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  MTV and their partner, College News Media partnered with HHS to host this important media call.

Secretary Sebelius, who met with Luke and his family during their advocacy tour in Washington, DC during National Influenza Vaccination Week reiterated the dangers and unpredictable nature of H1N1.  She stated that children between the ages of 18 to 24 have been six times more likely to be hospitalized due to H1N1 compared to all other age groups.  Teens and young adults are particularly vulnerable to the virus because they often live, work, and study in close proximity with other people and unlike older persons have not been exposed to influenza viruses similar to this one before. The Secretary reminded reporters that several years ago physicians became lax in recommending the vaccine following the holidays and the country was hit with a surge of hospitalizations in February and March (the typical peak period of seasonal flu activity).  By vaccinating the larger population more people will be protected she stated.

Luke told reporters that he has become a spokesperson for Every Child By Two to ensure that what happened to him does not happen to any other family.  At the time that Luke became ill, the vaccine was only available to people at high risk, which he wasn’t at the time.  He recalls, “I almost lost my life from not getting vaccinated.  The vaccine can save your life and I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.  My whole family, my county – the entire nation was devastated thanks to 60 Minutes (who aired Luke’s story in great detail)”.  “My teammates didn’t think I’d be alive for Christmas.”

Next, Luke talked about the experience of waking up from his coma. “I can remember the first time I woke up and saw myself in the mirror in rehab.  I was devastated. I thought something was wrong with the mirror.  I lost so much weight and muscle mass that I had worked so hard to gain.  I was angry because I knew there was a virus that I could have gotten vaccinated against but couldn’t get.  It really made me angry.  I wish I’d had the opportunity to get the vaccine.”

It is amazing to meet a young person with so much compassion for others. “My whole family is pro vaccine… it’s not just for yourself…it’s for everyone else.  It’s for the people that you don’t know – it’s for the pregnant women and other children that you don’t know but you could affect their life by not getting the vaccine and not even know it.”  Luke and his family suffered greatly, they witnessed the death of several children from the virus during Luke’s hospitalization and are committed to assuring that others do not suffer needlessly.

Check out this video to see Luke speak about his advocacy efforts during National Influenza Vaccination Week which took place January 10-16.

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