According to the CDC, the flu costs the country $10.4 billion dollars every year, but Senator Amy Klobuchar is trying to ease the economic burden and keep people from getting sick by helping improve the vaccine.
The doctor’s exam room and getting vaccinated can be scary enough, which is why in an Albert Lea Tribune op-ed this week, Senator Klobuchar wrote, “No parent should ever have to go through a health scare with their child, and certainly not for the flu. But too many do.”
“Kids in MN die from influenza every year and you never know if it’s going to be your child or not,” said Dr. Stacene Maroushek, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Hennepin Healthcare.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80,000 Americans died last flu season, including 180 children. It’s a key reason Senator Klobuchar now advocates legislators sign the Flu Vaccine Act into law to improve the flu shot by helping create a universal flu vaccine. Dr. Maroushek says the vaccine would offer convenience and a consistent shield against the virus.
“A universal vaccine could be really helpful in not being vaccinated as often, giving us protection against those drifted strains,” said Dr. Maroushek.
The senate in September secured additional funding for the creation of a universal flu vaccine, but Senator Klobuchar writes more is needed to support the research necessary to design one.
“They do the study, analyze the data, decide they need to change something, reanalyze the data, study it, reanalyze the data, until they get to a vaccine that they feel is the safest and most efficacious for people,” said Dr. Maroushek. “So it takes a lot of time and money.”
To mother Elma Johnson, it would be time and money well spent.
“That would be fabulous,” said Johnson. “Cover more people and increase our chances of getting it right.”
Not only to safeguard her daughters, but everyone they encounter.
“Public health offers so many good ways to keep our families and communities safe and this is one of them. I honestly think so,” she said.
So far this year, 52 people have been hospitalized with the flu, which is down significantly from this time last year. Even though the current shot isn't 100 percent effective, doctors say it can still reduce your risk of serious illness or even death.