One Mom’s Advice: Get Your Kids A Flu Vaccine As Soon As It Becomes Available
Nov 02, 2016

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.

giannaandmomsweetHer 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.  

“She went to bed with me at about 8:30pm and fell asleep. She woke up at midnight coughing and moaning a bit. She also felt warm so again I gave her Tylenol and patted her back to break up the crud in her lungs.  I took her back to bed with me and cuddled up with her. At some point, I heard her little voice calling out Mom, mom, mom.  I was sleepy and told her, “Everything is going to be ok, we just need the medicine to kick in. Later she was quiet and I thought the medicine was working and she was breathing easier.”

While Gianna’s mother was hoping the medicine was making her daughter more comfortable, she awoke to realize that her worst nightmare was actually her new reality. 

“Something woke me at 3:00am. Gianna was next to me. She was gone. I felt she was cold and not breathing. I gave my baby girl CPR for five minutes until the emergency team could get there. About 10 to 20 first-responders were at the house trying to revive her….They were able to get her heart started again with the defibrillator and a ventilator after almost 30 minutes. But there was still a somber kind of a feeling as they prepared us all to go to the hospital, like they knew but couldn’t tell us that this would not have a good ending. The ambulance left but I never heard a siren…

We sat in absolute shock, just numb and time was standing still. It was like we were stuck in some horrible dream.  My 12-year old son started screaming and sobbing, “What am I supposed to do? My sister is dead. How am I supposed to live without her?” It was enough to rip my heart out.  Basically, there was nothing the doctors could do to save her.

My healthy, beautiful two-year old had died, with little warning and in less than 2 days, from the flu.

giannagravestone

Gianna’s mother has shared all the details of her story on Shot by Shot, hoping that other parents will not delay in getting their children vaccinated for the flu this year.  

“If we could go back in time, we wish we would have gotten Gianna her flu vaccine. We would like to think that we left no stone unturned.  The rest of the family got theirs, but somehow we just didn’t get around to bringing her in for hers.  It’s a heavy burden to bear wondering if her death might have been preventable.”

To find out where  you can get flu vaccines for yourself and your family, visit HealthMap Vaccine Finder.


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12 responses to “One Mom’s Advice: Get Your Kids A Flu Vaccine As Soon As It Becomes Available”

  1. Amy Pisani says:

    I am left in tears reading this story. As always I am so grateful to families like this who are such loving people that they are willing to share their heartbreaking stories in order to help prevent this from happening to others. Thank you to Gianna’s family.

  2. reissd says:

    This is heartbreaking.

  3. Shawn O. says:

    Gianna’s family is so brave for sharing their tragic story. I can only hope that it helps increase vaccination rates and prevent more cases like hers. As a reminder, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vaccination starting no later than October. Because the flu season can be variable, they also suggest that vaccine may be given through June. This year, there is a strong recommendation not to use the intranasal form of the vaccine, because for the past 3 years, it has been only 3% effective compared to 65% for the shot. I agree with your recommendation to get the vaccine early, however late is still better than not at all!

    https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Issues-Flu-Vaccine-Recommendations-for-2016-17-Season.aspx

  4. Christine Vara says:

    @Shawn O. I just want to clarify that I did not mean to suggest that people not get vaccinated if they didn’t get vaccinated “early”. In fact, in a previous blog post I had written (https://shotofprevention.com/2016/10/12/when-is-the-best-time-to-get-a-flu-shot/) I try to emphasize that early is best, but getting a flu shot at any point in the season still helps protect us from circulating influenza. In fact, there are often flu deaths as late as May. Also, we did cover the ACIP’s recommendation NOT to use the nasal flu mist this year, as you mentioned. Here is a recap of all the latest ACIP recs: https://shotofprevention.com/2016/10/26/october-updates-from-advisory-committee-on-immunization-practices/#comment-103619

  5. I really like your emphasis on getting the vaccination as soon as possible. It seems that a lot of people don’t understand the reason why you would want to do that if you kid doesn’t want the shot. However, pretty bad things can happen if you aren’t careful when it comes to your kid’s health. Do you have any other tips about getting your children vaccinated?

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