ARLINGTON — Playing with five-year old Dax is a combination of joy and sadness for Lisa Adkinson. It's been four years since Dax’ twin sister Bella died from the flu.
Adkinson recalled holding her daughter as she took her final breath. "I can close my eyes at any moment and remember exactly where I was sitting," she said. "Exactly how she looked and how my husband and I felt that day and at that moment. Not knowing how we would take our next breath, let alone be four years from now."
Bella was considered a high-risk patient. She had survived a brain tumor and had a tracheotomy. A flu shot shortage in 2009 left her dangerously unprotected from the virus.
Little Bella was on waiting lists for a dose at several physician offices. Her family dared not take her out of the house for fear of exposing her to the virus.
"As a matter of fact, the day she went to the emergency room, our pediatrician had the shot for her," Adkinson said. "It was just too late."
This year, Adkinson has found herself frustrated with talk and rumors questioning the effectiveness and safety of the flu vaccine.
Some critics suggest additives in the vaccine are more dangerous than the influenza virus itself. Others question whether widespread flu vaccination recommendations are a conspiracy between the government and vaccine-makers.
"Some of the comments that I've read are just preposterous," Adkinson said. "It frustrates me because they're scaring people that don't have access maybe to good health care from doing something that could save their life or their kid's life."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu vaccine is both safe and effective for most people. Some people do have a reaction that makes is dangerous to receive vaccine, but those reactions are considered rare.
A sore arm or feeling sick for a day is generally considered a sign the immune system is responding to the vaccine.
The flu shot contains a dead virus, which makes transmission of influenza impossible. The flu mist nasal spray vaccine, however, is a live virus. It is not recommended or appropriate for everyone.
This year, an egg-free version of the vaccine called Flublock is an option for those with serious egg allergies.
"It's tragic," Adkinson said. "It takes me back to that day. It breaks my heart to see so many people get sick when it's easily prevented or minimized by getting the vaccine. The vaccine would have saved my daughter's life. None of us got sick. But somehow, second-hand, she was exposed to it."
Lisa Adkinson would give everything now to have had a flu shot for her little girl Bella four years ago.