Flu Fighter: Jennifer Miller
Meet flu fighter Jennifer Pool Miller. Jennifer was completely caught off guard by the seriousness of flu when her healthy 5-year-old went from being her high energy, effervescent self to needing intensive care. That particular year, Jennifer and her family had not gotten vaccinated. Since that experience, Jennifer has made it her mission to educate and advocate for annual flu vaccination and prevention.
She is currently the treasurer for Families Fighting Flu, a national nonprofit organization, which educates about the seriousness of influenza and the importance of annual vaccination to prevent suffering from flu complications including hospitalizations and death.
In addition, she and her family established the Caroline Miller Endowed Fund for Nursing Education and the “Katie and Caroline P.I.C. YOU!” award at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to support continuing education for nurses. The fund and award are a way for Jennifer and her family to express their appreciation and give back to health care providers who played such an integral role in Caroline’s recovery into a healthy teenager.
- In your role, how do you prepare for flu season each year?
Getting myself and my family vaccinated against flu is my highest priority every fall. I have school aged children, so I now consider annual flu vaccination as one of the most important back-to-school tasks to accomplish. I literally place this lifesaving “to-do” on our family calendar. Once I have made sure my entire family is vaccinated, I reach out to friends and neighbors in my community to encourage them to protect themselves and their loved ones by also getting their flu vaccines. There’s nothing worse than seeing your child critically ill and clinging to life because of not taking precautions or not taking advantage of a lifesaving vaccination. Getting your flu vaccine can not only prevent the flu but can at the very least, reduce the severity of its symptoms.
- What is the most difficult part of flu prevention?
I believe it’s difficult to impress the need to prevent something if the risk of inaction isn’t fully understood. That is why it’s so very important to educate the public that influenza seriously impacts the health of millions each year, 14,000 die and 140,000 are hospitalized. I also believe that many [people] feel that the recommended timing of vaccination isn’t necessarily convenient. It may not be congruent with your annual well visit and could require a separate appointment to get immunized. However, I encourage everyone to take advantage of receiving their immunizations from their local retail pharmacies and their community health department’s annual flu clinics.
- Why do you think people underestimate the seriousness of flu illness?
I think it goes back to that adage, “you can’t change what you don’t know.” I think people don’t realize how deadly flu can be. I think influenza is often misunderstood as just another ordinary cold or illness, when, influenza can be a serious respiratory illness. The word “flu” has become a commonplace term that has been overused and unfortunately, used incorrectly. That’s why I believe it’s so important to share my family’s story to prevent any other family from having to go through what ours did.
- Why is it important to get a flu shot every year?
The flu vaccine is your best shot at prevention. Every year, everyone 6 months and older should receive their flu vaccine. As parents, we babyproof our homes and make sure our children are strapped safely in their car seats. We take all these measures to keep our loved ones safe. Making sure they are vaccinated against deadly diseases is just as important!
- What would you say to those who are hesitant about getting a flu shot?
I often try to ask pointed questions to better understand their hesitancy. I ask them if they have a strong relationship with a health care professional or pharmacy. I encourage them to go to the CDC, Families Fighting Flu and NFID websites to find strong, scientific data and honest information. Lastly, without fail, I share my daughter Caroline’s story as a cautionary tale; a story of a very young and healthy person that nearly lost her life to a deadly, yet vaccine preventable disease.
The profiles featured on this website are provided for informational and educational purposes only. The information provided in these profiles reflect the opinions of the speakers only, and does not necessarily represent the position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services. No endorsement of the speakers by the U.S. Government should be inferred or implied.