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Sioux Falls mom shares importance of flu vaccination after daughter’s death

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 10:46 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Flu season is around the corner and this year, there’s extra emphasis on the importance of the flu shot with COVID-19 now in the picture. Now, a Sioux Falls mom is urging others to get a flu vaccination in memory of her late child.

Angie Wehrkamp hopes that by sharing her daughter Gianna’s story, it helps save a life.

“She came home one evening and had a slight fever. But I had heard on the news a few weeks prior about a gentleman from Hartford who had passed away from the flu and he was perfectly healthy,” said Wehrkamp.

So she took her two-year-old to the doctors just to be safe.

“She was diagnosed with Influenza A and the doctors said you got here as fast as you could, today is the sickest that she’s going to be, by tomorrow she’s going to be on the mend. And she did not make it through that night,” said Wehrkamp.

That was in 2015, since then Angie has become an advocate and board member of the organization, Families Fighting Flu. It’s a non-profit committed to flu education and prevention.

This year, in memory of Gianna, Angie is urging everyone to take the Families Fighting Flu Vaccination Promise online.

“We have a promise wall where you can go and you can sign the wall. You can dedicate your signature to your children, to your family,” said Wehrkamp.

“And this is your commitment to get your annual flu vaccine this year.”

You’ll also receive an email reminder to get a flu shot.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned throughout this entire experience is how important the flu vaccination is because the flu is so incredibly serious,” said Wehrkamp.

“I wish I would have gotten her vaccinated. I wish I would have known that the flu vaccine wasn’t just to prevent getting the flu, but it also helps prevent if you did get the flu, it would prevent the serious side effects, prevent hospitalization and prevent death.”

According to Dr. Kevin Post, Chief Medical Officer of Avera Medical Group the influenza vaccine is encouraged for anyone six months and older.

“Of course we always have a focus on high-risk patients which are our younger children, the elderly, those with extensive medical conditions,” said Dr. Post.

However, he encourages all his patients to get the flu shot.

“People say, well I’m young and I’m healthy, I’m not concerned about it, but it’s not so much for you even at times. It may be to prevent yourself from getting it and then passing it on to someone who could not handle the illness. So you may easily be saving the life of someone you know or someone you may never meet,” said Dr. Post.

When it comes to deciding whether or not to get a vaccination.

“Find credible medical sources you can trust and also your own medical provider and seek advice from them. I really encourage people to make a logical and informed decision and do what’s best for them, their families, and others that they may come in contact with,” said Dr. Post.

The South Dakota State Medical Association, Immunize South Dakota, and South Dakota Public Health Association are also urging South Dakotans to get the flu vaccine to prevent a dual surge of the flu and the coronavirus.

“Measures are in place to make sure people are safe wherever they choose to get vaccinated. Appointments can be made at doctors' offices, all of which are following CDC guidance to minimize risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Benjamin Aaker, MD, SDSMA president.

Some areas are holding clinics in parking lots and drive-through sites. You can sign up for text reminders to get your flu vaccine by texting SDFLU to 47177.

Copyright 2020 Dakota News Now. All rights reserved.

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