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My Daughter Died From a Vaccine Preventable Disease

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Scarlet Anne Taylor with her mother Rebecca Hendricks.

Scarlet Anne Taylor was only 5 when she became sick with the flu and was sent home from school in December 2014. Two days later, Scarlet was admitted to the hospital because she was having trouble breathing.  Once admitted, her condition only seemed to worsen. Four hours after bringing her daughter to the hospital, her mother, Rebecca Hendricks, learned that she had died of complications from flu. “My daughter died from a vaccine preventable disease,” Rebecca recounts.

At that time, Rebecca did not realize that children younger than 5 years old who are otherwise healthy are at high risk of serious flu-related complications simply because of their age. In addition, children 2 years old and up to their 5th birthday are more likely than healthy, older children to be taken to a doctor, an urgent care center, or the emergency room because of flu.

Turning tragedy into actionInfluenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. People of every age, including those in good health, are at risk of flu. The best way to protect yourself and your family this flu season is by getting a flu vaccine.

Since her daughter’s death, Rebecca now understand the risks of flu and the benefits of a flu vaccine.  She has taken her daughter’s story and used it to educate the people around her, especially families. “Before, I thought everyone got over the flu,” says Rebecca. “I chose not to vaccinate my family simply because I didn’t know the facts. Our family now gets vaccinated against flu every year. We are educated about what flu is, what the symptoms are, and how each one of us plays an important role in our community in stopping the spread of flu.”

Rebecca started Fight the Flu Foundation in 2015, hoping that she could save the lives of others from flu by sharing her story and spreading awareness about the dangers of flu.

Fight the Flu Foundation’s mission is to “fight the flu, and win.” The foundation aims to educate families and communities around the nation about flu, as well as make flu vaccination a yearly practice for those who may not regularly vaccinate their families.

Spreading the word

Rebecca Hendricks getting her flu shot.At first, Rebecca took to Facebook and shared her new foundation’s page with her friends and family. Before long, other families across the United States heard about the foundation’s mission and began reaching out to Rebecca to share similar stories about their family’s own loss from flu. The foundation gained a small following online and served as an avenue for those who have lost a child or loved one to the flu. Educating families about the importance of flu vaccination online and in local communities, the foundation hopes tragic flu stories will speak to others, and help families realize that their young children can also be at risk for flu.
Since it started, Rebecca has taken her foundation’s work into local communities. As her foundation grows, so do her goals. Rebecca wants to ensure that everyone has access to a flu vaccine by providing flu vaccinations to underserved populations. In August 2016, Fight the Flu Foundation hosted its first awareness and fundraising drive in Tacoma, Washington, bringing flu awareness to families in need. It was the foundation’s first successful event, with 25 different community vendors supporting the cause.

Though her foundation is still growing, Rebecca’s most valued achievement thus far is “the letters we receive from people who have been impacted by Fight the Flu Foundation’s stories,” she said. She receives letters from mothers and families regularly thanking her for the work that she’s doing. “It’s receiving those highlights that remind me that I’m doing exactly what I set out to do. Fight the flu.”

National Influenza Vaccination Week

For National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), CDC reminds everything that it is not too late to get a flu vaccine.  For those at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications, the flu vaccine is even more important.  Rebecca Hendricks’s daughter was a healthy, lively 5-year-old when she caught the flu. CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine every season.  This holiday season, make sure your loved ones get a flu vaccine, and make sure to get one yourself to protect your loved ones who are at high-risk for the flu.

For more information, visit People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications and Get Vaccinated.

Join the Blog-A-Thon!CDC Flu Blog-A-Thon

During NIVW, CDC is encouraging partners to post blogs on the importance of flu vaccination.  Look for other participating blogs throughout this week and share your own post on social media using the hashtags #NIVW. For those want to take part in the Blog-a-thon, an NIVW Badge is available to include with your post to show your participation. Help us spread the word that it is not too late to get a flu vaccine this season.

Check out HealthinAging.org’s Blog-a-thon post today, December, 5 and Verywell.com’s Cold and Flu section for their Blog-A-Thon post tomorrow, December 6. For more information about the Blog-a-thon, contact FluInbox@cdc.gov.

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11 comments on “My Daughter Died From a Vaccine Preventable Disease”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Rebecca,
    Thank you for having the courage to share Scarlett’s story and making an impact with your Flu Foundation.

    Love the Blog, sooo.. important to spread the news about vaccinating for all preventable disease.
    Thank you!

    Rebecca’s story is very significant to illustrate a popular misconception that flu is not a serious disease, i.e., “… everyone got over the flu.” Is Rebecca willing to share about the complications of which her daughter died?
    Thank-you, Rebecca, for taking such positive steps to educate families.

    I am so sorry about Scarlet’s death. You are making something very positive and meaningful come of a very tragic event and may help prevent other families from having to go through what you did. Thank you. You are able to speak from a real experience which makes an impact on other families.

    Rebecca. I am so sorry for your loss.
    You are making a difference by sharing your story.
    As a nurse myself, I thank you for helping to get the word out there.
    Peace…

    Rebecca,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Words can’t describe how difficult this must be for you. It takes a brave individual to turn their negative situation into a positive one. As a nurse, I understand the importance of immunizations and offer them often while at work. I think it is great that you are speaking about your experience to the public in order to educate them. Sometimes it takes a personalized story to influence the public. Keep up the good work!

    I am sorry for your loss Rebecca. I am inspired that you started a foundation that focuses on educating the public on the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases.

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