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Health Watch: Doctors Urging Vaccines As First Child Dies From Flu

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The flu season has arrived in tragic fashion.

Health officials in Florida have confirmed that a child is the first death in the U.S. due to the flu this season.

CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reports that many parents are still skeptical of the flu vaccine. Sadly, the child who died in Florida was unvaccinated.

People continue to avoid flu shots, even after the CDC announced that last year's flu season was the deadliest in more than 40 years.

Eighty thousand deaths, 180 of them children, and nearly a million hospitalizations were blamed on the flu last year. Doctors say much of that could have been avoided with a flu shot.

There's nothing like setting an example by actually practicing what you preach. That's what William Crystal was doing. A healthcare worker at Nassau University Medical Center, William volunteered to get a flu shot in front of the media Tuesday.

"If more people get vaccinated then that will make this year's season much, much milder," Dr. Paul Pipia, CEO of Nassau University Medical Center said.

MORE: Doctors Urging Shots, Not Nasal Spray, For Children's Flu Protection

Flu vaccines are recommended for anyone over six months of age, and despite the flu death toll among children last year, a new national survey shows many parents question the shot's safety and effectiveness.

Flu Shot
A person receives a flu shot. (Credit: CBS2)

Orlando Health reports 53 percent believe flu vaccines can cause children to get sick with flu and 34 percent believe the flu vaccine just doesn't work.

"You cannot get flu from the flu vaccine," Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center said.

"This vaccine and others do not give you autism. Influenza vaccine is safe. Each year we have many of cases of influenza among children and some of those children sadly die. Most of those children are unvaccinated."

While some people say they got the shot and got the flu anyway, experts say the vaccine is still important. Your flu will reportedly be much milder.

"It decreases your risk of dying by 50 percent if you're a high-risk and by 65 percent if you're at normal risk," Dr. Anthony Boutin of Nassau University Medical Center.

The CDC recommends everyone get vaccinated before the end of October because it takes a little time for the shot to build up an immunity.

"The flu virus is out there, it's just getting started. After you get vaccinated, it takes about ten days, two weeks for your protection to build up," Dr. Schaffner explained.

Flu season is winding down in the southern hemisphere where it was a mild season. Experts hope that means we will have a similar season here.

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