Getting Kids Their Flu Vaccine Just May Save Their Life
Each year, about this time, I think about a friend who died from influenza. It couldn’t have been more of a shock. He was completely fit. Healthy. A relatively young man in his early thirties. Yet, despite all that, influenza took hold and within a matter of days his heart failed, he fell into a coma and eventually he died leaving his beautiful wife and infant daughter behind.
Even as we mourned him, I still didn’t consider the flu to be a significant risk to myself or my children. I guess it’s just human nature. We tend to want to think these “fluke” things are just that – strange, unexplained rarities that will never repeat themselves. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Fortunately, in the 11 years since we said goodbye to our friend, doctors, scientists and public health administrators have made great strides in their effort to protect people from the serious consequences of influenza. The most important development has probably been the introduction of the universal flu vaccine recommendations. This broad-based recommendation was preceded by a steady expansion of pediatric influenza immunization recommendations that were intended to reduce the disease burden that was being observed among children.
There is nothing worse that seeing our own children suffer. Except, of course, witnessing their loss of life.
Unfortunately, it is estimated that each year 20,000 children are hospitalized and roughly 100 die as a result of influenza in the United States alone. If you think childhood influenza is only dangerous to children who have other underlying health conditions, you may be surprised to learn that between 2004 and 2012, 829 U.S. children under the age of 18 died from flu–related causes and 40% of those deaths occurred in children with no known medical conditions. However, the current recommendations – that every person over the age of six months get a flu vaccine each and every year – are intended to eventually reduce these numbers.
What motivates a parent to get their child vaccinated?
According to a five-year progress report from the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition, there are several major motivators that influence parents to get a flu vaccine for their child. These include a greater awareness that the vaccine is our best available protection against a serious disease that can result in hospitalization or death, and the fact that even if the vaccine can’t completely eliminate the risk of influenza, that it will likely lessen the severity if their child does fall victim to influenza. It’s important to note that a strong recommendation from a health care provider remains one the most important influencers for parents in making the decision to vaccinate. Yet, research confirms that parents need to be reminded every year.
So, if you’re a parent reading this, consider this your reminder.
Recent news reports indicate that flu activity in the U.S. has surged over the course of the last week with an emphasis in the southern states. With such a big jump in cases, it’s important that you get yourself and your family vaccinated today. It’s not too late, but there’s no reason to wait.
For more information on the impact of childhood influenza, and to help locate where to get a flu vaccine, visit the Families Fighting Flu website. While you’re there, pay some tribute to the many families who have suffered the ultimate loss and read their personal stories of influenza. You can also share any of the numerous videos at the Shot By Shot website where stories like the one of Brittney below, remind us of the unfortunate impact of childhood influenza.