SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Mom who lost son to flu: Get vaccinated

Two physicians who lost their son to the flu last year are now encouraging other parents to get flu shots for their children.

Posted: Nov 2, 2018 10:51 PM
Updated: Nov 2, 2018 11:08 PM

Two physicians who lost their young son to the flu last year want parents to listen to their message, born of great grief and suffering: Get your child a flu shot.

Drs. Laura and Anthony Sidari's 4-year-old son, Leon, did not get the flu vaccine last year. He died on Christmas Day, less than 48 hours after he started feeling sick.

"I didn't know a condition could kill a child that quickly who had been previously healthy," said Laura, a psychiatrist. "This has been a hard haul for us, and we're very private people, but we're trying to help other families."

Leon was one of 180 US children who died in the 2017-18 flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- a historic high.

Approximately 80% of those children had not received a flu shot, according to the CDC.

Laura and Anthony, a rheumatologist, had wanted to get Leon and his 2-year-old brother flu shots at a pharmacy. They lived in Texas, where state law prohibits pharmacists from vaccinating anyone under the age of 7.

The couple, busy with their newborn third child, Cameron, decided to get Leon a flu shot when they were going to the pediatrician anyway: when 2-year-old Tristan had his annual visit, scheduled for January 3.

Leon died 10 days before that appointment.

"It wasn't even on my radar as something that I really, really needed to prioritize," Laura said. "It just slipped through the cracks."

The Sidaris' story is all too familiar to Dr. Flor Muñoz.

For 20 years, Muñoz, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Texas Children's Hospital, has worked with the American Academy of Pediatrics to increase the rate of flu vaccination for children.

The rates aren't great: Only 47.8% of children 6 months to 17 years old have had a flu shot in the previous year, according to the CDC, which recommends that everyone over 6 months get a flu shot.

The problem: Though adults can get flu shots at pharmacies or even at work, children don't have as many options.

In most states, there are limits or outright bans on pharmacists vaccinating children, and flu vaccine clinics at schools are the exception rather than the rule.

Only 13 states allow pharmacists to vaccinate children of any age, according to the National Association of State Pharmacy Associations.

"It's frustrating. It seems like we don't learn," Muñoz said.

There's no medical reason children shouldn't get flu shots at a pharmacy, said Muñoz, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.

Some states are changing their laws. New York used to bar pharmacists from giving flu shots to anyone under 18. This year, after the historic flu season, the state changed its laws to permit vaccination for anyone 2 or older.

"Good for you, New York!" Muñoz said. "More should be done to make this happen in other states. There should be more of a push."

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said more should also be done to make it easier for local health departments to offer flu shot clinics. Right now, he said, it's difficult for those departments to purchase large quantities of vaccine and to bill insurance.

"We need to do more to make it easy," he said.

The Sidaris are doing their part. Last month, they sponsored a "Say Boo to the Flu" event in their hometown, Albion, New York, where 59 children were vaccinated.

Although the CDC encourages flu vaccines by the end of October each year, it's especially important to get the shot well before the holidays, Muñoz said. Flu activity can peak in December, and holiday get-togethers can make the virus spread more quickly. It takes about two weeks for the shot to become effective after you receive it.

"Leon is my reason this season, and every season, for getting flu shots on time," Laura Sidari wrote on her Facebook page. "Holiday planning and fall festivities can wait, but the flu shot cannot."

CNN's John Bonifield contributed to this story.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 124439

Reported Deaths: 2292
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin32336965
Ramsey13342347
Dakota9251133
Anoka8093148
Stearns537035
Washington525967
Scott318534
Olmsted307029
St. Louis264763
Wright227614
Nobles214016
Clay203243
Blue Earth19707
Carver16957
Rice15789
Sherburne156221
Kandiyohi15494
Mower148912
Winona118918
Lyon9256
Waseca9129
Crow Wing87921
Chisago8552
Benton8415
Beltrami7687
Otter Tail7436
Todd7232
Steele7212
Itasca67617
Nicollet67317
Freeborn6324
Morrison6076
Douglas6043
Martin58616
Le Sueur5855
McLeod5703
Watonwan5674
Goodhue51111
Pine5090
Polk4924
Becker4893
Isanti4873
Chippewa3793
Carlton3781
Dodge3620
Mille Lacs3528
Pipestone32616
Wabasha3230
Cass3115
Hubbard3092
Meeker3073
Brown2983
Rock2971
Unassigned26553
Yellow Medicine2655
Cottonwood2620
Redwood25011
Murray2483
Fillmore2380
Sibley2383
Renville22911
Faribault2090
Jackson1951
Roseau1930
Swift1921
Wadena1880
Kanabec18610
Houston1811
Stevens1681
Lincoln1650
Pennington1631
Koochiching1624
Aitkin1542
Pope1480
Big Stone1270
Wilkin1244
Lac qui Parle1232
Lake1030
Mahnomen941
Norman940
Grant894
Marshall871
Clearwater760
Red Lake602
Traverse530
Lake of the Woods421
Kittson270
Cook110

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 107481

Reported Deaths: 1537
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk17984282
Woodbury682088
Johnson563830
Black Hawk519196
Linn5047126
Dubuque467952
Scott404134
Story385317
Dallas329143
Pottawattamie295644
Sioux229712
Buena Vista220012
Marshall192636
Webster170014
Plymouth153925
Wapello147162
Clinton135525
Muscatine133958
Crawford130912
Cerro Gordo124923
Des Moines12139
Warren11496
Carroll10288
Jasper102034
Henry9785
Marion92410
Tama90037
Lee8719
Wright6871
Dickinson6847
Delaware6798
Boone6778
Mahaska61422
Bremer6128
Washington61011
Harrison5768
Jackson5283
Lyon5147
Benton5031
Louisa49115
Clay4844
Hamilton4433
Winnebago43716
Winneshiek4339
Hardin4285
Poweshiek42811
Kossuth4220
Floyd41511
Jones4113
Emmet39914
Buchanan3933
Cedar3855
Iowa3776
Franklin37318
Guthrie36914
Cherokee3652
Sac3643
Clayton3503
Page3470
Butler3442
Shelby3441
Madison3432
Fayette3412
Mills3361
Allamakee3278
Chickasaw3221
Clarke3123
Cass3052
Humboldt2913
Palo Alto2861
Hancock2814
Grundy2804
Calhoun2644
Osceola2480
Howard2479
Monroe23811
Mitchell2300
Monona2281
Taylor2202
Pocahontas2092
Union2094
Appanoose2013
Jefferson1901
Lucas1866
Fremont1781
Ida1772
Greene1730
Van Buren1572
Davis1554
Montgomery1555
Keokuk1401
Adair1331
Audubon1291
Decatur1290
Worth1270
Wayne1123
Ringgold822
Adams670
Unassigned190
Rochester
Overcast
32° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 24°
Mason City
Overcast
38° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 30°
Albert Lea
Overcast
36° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 29°
Austin
Overcast
37° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 31°
Charles City
Broken Clouds
41° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 35°
Temps will rise before the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Sean's Weather 10/20

Image

SEMYO students giving back

Image

Unity Day in Austin

Image

Rochester Postpones Fee Increase for Downtown Properties

Image

Rochester City Council approves updated DMC plan

Image

City Stops Fee Increase for Downtown Rochester

Image

Rochester's DMC 5-year-plan is approved

Image

Terry Branstad visits old stomping grounds

Image

Sara's 10pm Forecast - Monday

Image

GOP fundraiser in Clear Lake

Community Events