For parents, the helplessness that comes with dealing with a sick child is one of the worst feelings in the world. But when it comes to the flu, there one major step parents can take. Doctors say getting the flu shot is about 70 percent effective. Our Katie Gibas has more on what parents need to know about their kids and the flu shot.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Jessica Santmyer-Wilmot is the mother of six children. A few years ago, one of her daughters was hospitalized with the flu.
"She kept saying that she wasn't feeling good. That she hurt all over. That her body was hurting. She would get fevers. And then she was to the point where she wasn't eating or drinking," said Jessica Santmyer-Wilmot, a Syracuse sesident.
Now she gets all her children vaccinated, as do many people who have had similar run-ins with the flu.
"I felt really bad. There was nothing really I could do and I felt like I should be able to do more," said Santmyer-Wilmot.
Doctors say the vaccination rate for children under the age of two is actually pretty high, about 70 percent. They say that's because those children are going to the doctor's more often for other checkups and other vaccinations. But they say once kids hit school age, their vaccination rate drops drastically.
"As they get older, those well child visits get spread apart. So unless they make a specific appointment for an influenza vaccine, they may miss it all together," said Dr. Joe Domachowske, a Professor of Pediatrics at Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital.
Those vaccination rates for kids ages five to 18 are as low as 20 percent in some parts of the Central New York community. That's why The Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital is giving free flu shots to children and their families at the Salvation Army's annual Christmas Bureau Registration.
"Kids are around each other all the time, and their hygiene is not as good as adults, so they can transmit respiratory viruses much more easily than adults can," said Dr. Joe Domachowske.
They're also working to educate parents and break misconceptions about the flu vaccine.
"The shot is an inactivated vaccine, so it can't give you influenza. They might get that perception because we give the vaccine during cold and flu season. So they might get the vaccine and then two or three days later they might get a cold or a influenza because they would have come down with it anyway," said Dr. Joe Domachowske
The flu shot is recommended for everyone six months and older.
The free shots will be available to people at the Salvation Army's Christmas Bureau registration every day this week. That's 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Thursday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.