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New Research Shows How Important Flu Vaccine Is At Preventing Severe Illness In Children

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – New research shows how important the flu vaccine is at preventing severe illness in children. One mother says she made a mistake one year not making the shot a priority.

On the outside, Madison Allen looks like a typical healthy 22-year-old. But her mom says on the inside, she's been left with significant lung disease.

"She is prone to pneumonia. So every time she gets pneumonia that just builds more scar tissue into her lungs," said Shelle Allen.

Madison, who had sports induced asthma, was hospitalized at the age of 12 with influenza B and pneumonia.  She spent weeks on life support and dialysis with her kidneys failing.

"She had a 1% chance of survival," Shelle said.

That year, unlike previous years, Madison had not received her flu shot.

A new study emphasizes how critical the vaccine can be for children.

Researchers looked at records from several pediatric medical centers during the 2018-2019 flu season.

A season that did not have a well matched vaccine for one of the viruses circulating.

"Anywhere between 40% and close to 50%, based on the type of influenza," explained Dr. Marian Michaels, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "The vaccine was able to prevent one third to one half of all hospitalizations and emergency room visits."

Thousands of children are hospitalized every year with the flu and some die. The vaccine is recommended for everyone over six months old.

Dr. Michaels, the study's author, reminds parents that the flu can have serious complications for any child.

"It's not always children who have underlying medical illnesses. Sometimes it is perfectly healthy children," Dr. Michaels said.

Shelle now works with the organization families fighting flu.

"I'm her mother. I was supposed to protect her that year and every year, and unfortunately, that year, I didn't do my job," she said.

She wants to get the word out to more parents that skipping the flu shot could mean life or death.

Experts have also want to get the message out that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the flu shot is more important than ever.

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