Two U.S. doctors who lost their son to the flu are warning parents to vaccinate their children this season — and sooner rather than later.
Laura and Anthony Sidari’s four-year-old son, Leon, was set to get the flu shot on Jan. 3, 2018. In a recent Facebook post, Sidari described how she delayed it in order to align with a visit to the pediatrician when her other son had his annual visit.
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But Leon did not make it to the appointment.
Two days before Christmas (and 10 days before his scheduled shot) the four-year-old started getting sick with “general flu symptoms,” she said. Sidari gave her son chicken noodle soup while he watched cartoons, fighting a fever and some body aches, according to People.
Leon’s symptoms rapidly got worse and turned into bacterial pneumonia. He was taken to the hospital where he died on Christmas morning. He had no history of medical problems, according to his parents.
Described as an “old soul” with patience and gentleness beyond his years, his parents said Leon’s smile was infectious and his love for his brothers inspiring.
“In the end, there was simply shock, horror, helplessness and unbearable pain,” Sidari told People. “I remember my final moments with him, crying in his blond hair and kissing him goodbye.”
She said the flu vaccine was not “even on her radar” as something she needed to prioritize and it just slipped through the cracks.
Now she is warning other parents about the dangers of the flu and the importance to get vaccinated before the season goes into full force.
“Last year, if I had seen a story like my own, I would have prioritized the flu shot differently. As a physician, even I was unaware of the significant risk that the flu posed to my healthy child,” she said.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist in Toronto, said between November and February is when flu season starts going into overdrive in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s very important people are prepared.
“People don’t usually understand how severe it is. They think it is just a cough or a cold. It is not. It can be a very serious infection,” Bogoch said.
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He said a “disproportionate” number of people who die of the flu every year are not vaccinated.
“There’s a reason the shots are available now,” he said. “There may not be too many cases of influenza right now, but you don’t need a crystal ball to predict there will be more cases soon. Week after week there will be more cases going into December.”
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