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Virginia mother pushes for flu vaccines after teen daughter’s sudden death

"She died in my arms.”
Posted at 5:39 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 18:32:30-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Northern Virginia mother stressed the importance of getting a flu shot following her teenage daughter’s sudden death.

Colette Giovanniello vividly remembers the day her daughter, Katie, came down with flu-like symptoms. In February, doctors diagnosed the 16-year-old with Influenza B and sent her home.

“They said, 'Why don’t you go home and give her some Tamiflu. Let her rest for two to three days.' If she didn’t feel better bring her back,” Giovanniello recalled.

Days later, Katie collapsed in her mother’s arms.

“I got her up in the morning. I put her in the tub to get her ready to go to the doctor, and as I was picking her up to get her out of the tub, she died in my arms.” Colette explained. “[First responders] did come and put her on a ventilator but she was dead, they were never able to revive her. It was really shocking that she died within three days.”

The unexpected lost hit Katie’s twin sister, Danielle, the hardest.

“I don’t think anyone can understand what it would be like to lose a twin, so suddenly, so young, someone you were never were apart from for 16 years,” Colette stated.

The Leesburg family will be entering the holidays with an empty seat at the table.

“I talk about how important it is to get flu shots. I’m helping people to understand the severity of it,” Colette stated.

Local health departments are working with state and federal partners to get the flu vaccine to more families.

Richmond City Health District (RCHD) Immunization Nurse Karen Carle is one of the experts who are spearheading efforts to get every citizen vaccinated.

“This year we have an increased team and the federal government has increased the amount of free vaccine available to the population,” Carle said.

Carle encouraged everyone over the age of six-months to get a flu shot, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"COVID-19 doesn’t effect children as much and we haven’t seen that. But, the flu does especially with the very young ones,” she explained.

The flu shot is about 40 to 60 percent effective, Carle said.

“It cuts your chance of getting the flu by 50 percent. If you have weakened immune systems, chronic illnesses, then the flu isn’t your friend.”

Carle also dispelled the rumor that the flu vaccine will get you sick.

“It’s dead virus. It can’t make you sick. If you got sick one time after you got the flu shot you probably already had the flu before you got the shot,” she stated.

RCHD will hold a free flu vaccination event at MLK Middle School on Mosby Street from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

Another event will be held at Huguenot High School on Forest Hill Avenue from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, December 2.

You’re encouraged to call 804-205-3501 to register, but walk-ins are accepted.