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Texas mother who lost daughter to flu shares importance of getting vaccinated

Health officials urge those 6-months and older to rollup their sleeves for the influenza shot and COVID-19 vaccine during the season of the so-called 'Twindemic.'

SINTON, Texas — RoxxAnn Pena never imagined she’d wake up to such tragedy and heartbreak the morning of December 13, 2013.

“My daughter went to bed the night before and did not wake up the next morning. We were all baffled at what may have had happened, why this normally full of life energetic little girl would just pass so suddenly,” Pena said.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Reese Pena was an active and healthy toddler who sometimes experienced febrile seizures when she got a fever.

Reese’s death was attributed to Influenza B, which doctors say attacked her heart.

RoxxAnn noted Reese was not vaccinated for the flu.

“As a mother, I didn’t feel it was very relevant that nobody was forcing me to get her vaccinated. It was optional and I wasn’t going to put my daughter through a few minutes of discomfort,” she said.

The latest data from the CDC reveals an estimated 20,000 Americans died from the flu during the 2019-2020 season.

ENT specialist Dr. Kevin Taheri noted it’s crucial for people six months and older to consider the flu vaccine, especially during a time where the world is already confronted with the spreading coronavirus.

"We’ve definitely seen the numbers increase, both anecdotally as well as in the hospital of those who’ve been admitted for the flu and the last thing we really want to avoid is having a double infection with both flu and COVID-19, Taheri said.

RoxxAnn and family have made it an annual tradition to get vaccinated after Reese’s death. She also serves as an advocate educating others about the importance of getting the flu shot to save lives through the platform provided by the national non-profit Families Fighting Flu.

“It can happen to you just as easily and I really hope that it never does to anybody else and that’s why I try really hard to advocate for the flu vaccine to avoid people from having to go through what our family’s gone through.”

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