To get vaccinated or not? A tale of 2 local families

Only 50 percent of Americans say they'll get a flu shot.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – According to a survey by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases during the 2019-2020 flu season, only 52% of Americans said they plan to get a flu shot.

This year, public health officials are hoping that number will jump.

There’s concern about hospitals being able to handle patients with the flu and COVID-19. Even so, it’s still an individual choice and there are a lot of opinions on both sides.

Julian, a third grader, remembers getting the flu last year. “The flu didn’t really hurt me — it just made me very annoyed,” Julian told News4Jax.

Julian’s mother, SuDelta Henson, said her entire family rarely misses their annual flu shots. But last year Julian missed his shot and he paid for it.

“He missed a couple of days,” Henson said. “We didn’t know he had a fever, but he was still okay and so we finally took him because the fever was still there after three or four days.”

Henson is a true believer of the vaccine. She has four active boys and when one goes down, it affects the entire family. So this year, they’ll all get the shot.

“I say it’s just an extra precaution,” Henson said. “It’s easier to get the flu shot and be protected than not and risk being sick. And we all know that flu can take you down and everyone doesn’t survive. It’s not a big story, but that is true, so I’d rather have my family protected.”

“It’s like a vitamin — it’s good for you, but it tastes really bad,” Julian added.

The protection provided by the vaccine varies from season to season, depending on the similarity or match between the viruses in the vaccine and those in circulation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the effectiveness rate of last year’s vaccine was 37 percent against influenza A and 50 percent against Influenza B viruses.

Those are odds Molly Laster isn’t willing to take.

“I have had the flu shot; I’m certainly not anti-vaccine,” Laster told News4Jax. “But we have found over the last few years there’s either a shortage or that it wasn’t really efficacious.”

Laster is a health and wellness professional who has two busy boys. One has asthma and they fight viruses with good clean living.

“I always look at what we can do to stay healthy through our food, through exercise, their lifestyle and doing some research. I determined that elderberry has some really amazing benefits that will boost your immune system,” Laster said.

Laster makes batches of elderberry syrup during cold and flu season. The berries are said to boost your immune system.

“We found in our family anecdotally that when we get sicknesses and cold, we have found dosed as directed with elderberry syrup, it actually has caused our symptoms to wane quicker,” she said.

Laster said daily doses of her homemade elderberry syrup along with healthy food, exercise and sleep keeps her family from getting sick.

“Once I learned that there are some other things we could take that are food-based and not just old wives’ tales and don’t have negative side effects, then I just didn’t see, ‘Why not try that?’” she said.

Elderberry syrup is sold in stores with dosing instructions. To learn more, visit the National Institutes of Health’s website.

About the Author:

Anchor on The Morning Show team and reporter specializing on health issues.