After death of daughter, parents urge flu vaccine
Linda Lombroso, November 10, 2014
Alissa and Richard Kanowitz, whose 4-year-old daughter Amanda died of the flu in 2004. Richard is a founder of Families Fighting Flu, a national organization that aims to raise awareness about the dangers of flu and the importance of getting children immunized.
“The flu is a serious respiratory illness that can kill you, and the only way to prevent it is to get vaccinated each and every year,” said Richard Kanowitz, the president and founding member of Families Fighting Flu, a national nonprofit advocacy organization.
But even with flu season fast approaching, some parents are still reluctant to have their children vaccinated, said Dr. Theresa Hetzler, a pediatrician with Children’s & Women’s Physicians of Westchester. Many say they’ve never had the flu, so they’re not worried about anybody in their household getting sick. Others are concerned their kids may get the flu from the flu vaccine.
But once Hetzler explains that’s not going to happen, they often change their minds. “That one day of not feeling 100 percent after the vaccine is much better than 10 days of feeling horrible,” she said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized every year due to complications from influenza. During the 2013-2014 flu season, more than 100 pediatric deaths were reported.
“The scary thing is that almost half of the children who died of the flu in the past were healthy children,” said Hetzler.
The CDC started tracking pediatric flu-related deaths after the 2003-2004 flu season, when Amanda got the virus. That season, 153 pediatric deaths were reported to the CDC from 40 states. During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, 348 children died of the flu.
Injuries are the leading cause of death in children in the United States, followed by cancer and birth defects, according to data from the CDC. In 2011, the most recent year death-rate data is available, 2,138 children under 10 died from injuries in accidents — and 175 died from influenza and pneumonia.
Current recommendations, set by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, are for children ages 6 months and up to get the nasal spray or the flu shot every year. The nasal spray is recommended for healthy children ages 2 through 8 without certain underlying medical conditions.
“You should get vaccinated, and the earlier the better,” said Hetzler.