Flu Fighter: Shelle Allen
Meet flu fighter Shelle Allen, who is dedicating much of her time these days to educating others about the dangers of flu and the importance of annual flu vaccination. She currently serves as the Board President of Families Fighting Flu, an organization dedicated to saving lives and reducing hospitalizations from flu by protecting all children and their families against influenza. Allen began volunteering at Families Fighting Flu in 2013, shortly after her 12-year-old daughter, Madi, was in the p(PICU) for 93 days and almost died from flu. Since that time, Allen has been tirelessly advocating and educating others about the dangers of flu by sharing her daughter’s story.
- In your role, how do you prepare for flu season each year?
I always say, “awareness is the first step towards real change.” As board president of Families Fighting Flu, preparation for each flu season begins months before the actual flu season occurs, which is typically between October and May in the United States. My role is to work with our team at Families Fighting Flu to help educate the public on the seriousness of influenza and promote annual flu vaccinations well in advance of the actual season. Our goal is to encourage everyone ages 6 months and older to receive their flu vaccine so that as many people as possible are protected before flu begins to spread in one’s community.Personally, I prepare for flu season with my immediate family by making it a priority to find a date that works for all of us to go together to get our flu shot. We make it a family event and bookend the flu vaccination with a lunch date to follow! I always encourage other families to take the same lead when promoting flu vaccinations amongst their family members. Getting vaccinated is about prioritizing your loved ones’ health and that’s certainly worth celebrating!
- What is the most difficult part of flu prevention?
I think the most challenging part of flu prevention is getting the public to understand that flu is a serious respiratory disease that actually NEEDS to be prevented! The best way to prevent yourself and your loved ones from becoming sick with flu is to get vaccinated. Many argue that depending on the year, the vaccine isn’t always as effective as they’d wish or believe it should be. But I can tell you that my family has learned firsthand, that ANY amount of protection is better than none. The year that my daughter Madi became so gravely ill, she had not received a flu vaccine. She spent 93 days in need of critical care. If she had received her flu vaccine that year, data suggests that she would most likely never have become so ill. Any percentage of protection may have alleviated my daughter’s suffering. Even if vaccination translated to one day or one hour fewer in the hospital, I can assure you, it’s worth it!
- Why do you think people underestimate the seriousness of flu illness?
I think there’s a lack of understanding of the disease and a lack of trust in the vaccine. I think those are two of the biggest issues that I hear from people. The best way to combat that thinking is to encourage people to find trusted, scientific sources such as the CDC and Families Fighting Flu websites to further educate themselves. We share our family stories and our personal experiences with flu in an effort to alleviate anyone else from having to suffer the same consequences.We encourage people to have strong relationships with their health care providers to facilitate meaningful conversations about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, specifically flu vaccines. When you have a trusted relationship with your health care provider, you are more likely to have an ongoing, open dialogue about your health. Annual flu vaccination can help ensure optimal health!
- Why is it important to get the flu shot every year?
It’s important for everyone to get their flu vaccine each year because influenza is Not making flu vaccination a priority, not having my child vaccinated, that ONE fateful year, nearly took her from us forever. As a mother, I was supposed to protect her. I believed in vaccinations. I just didn’t know the importance of annual vaccination against flu. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this lifesaving vaccine to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. Steering clear of flu should be everyone’s top priority. By getting vaccinated, you’re not only safeguarding yourself, but you’re also protecting those in higher risk groups that may not otherwise be able to be protected.
- What would you say to those who are hesitant about getting the flu shot?
I explain that getting vaccinated against flu is your best chance at preventing yourself from contracting flu. Flu vaccines are safe and effective and have been in existence for decades. Getting a flu vaccine may not be 100% effective but it’s the best way to prevent illness and reduce the risk of complications. The saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” certainly rings true with regards to the necessity of receiving a flu vaccine! Get vaccinated to prevent yourself from getting flu instead of trying to chase down a cure after you’ve contracted it.