On May 6, 2016, Jill Promoli put her two-year-old twins Jude and Thomas down for their afternoon naps. Other than running a low-grade fever that day, Jude seemed fine. “He was laughing, playing, and being his usual self,” says Promoli. However, when she went to wake the boys, she found Jude unresponsive. He was rushed to hospital where he was later pronounced dead — cardiac arrest from influenza B.
Jill and her husband Craig were grief-stricken, shocked, and confused. The entire family had got their flu vaccines earlier that year. And although Thomas and big sister Isla had flu symptoms earlier that week — likely from a bug going around Isla’s kindergarten class — both recovered quickly. “Unfortunately, Jude failed to develop the immunity from it,” says Promoli.
The couple started to speak with doctors and infectious disease experts who supplemented their understanding of community immunity, also known as herd immunity. When the majority of a community develops disease immunity, they are protecting the weaker members of the population from getting sick. “The flu shot is our best first defense, but there are other easy things people can do to minimize the risk of getting or passing on the flu, like frequent hand washing, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and staying home if you have flu symptoms,” says Promoli.
The flu shot is our best first defense, but there are other easy things people can do to minimize the risk of getting or passing on the flu.Jill Promoli
To share this information and encourage people to protect themselves and those around them, Jill and Craig launched their campaign, For Jude, For Everyone, in Oct. 2016. “It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” says Promoli. “More people are hearing our story and going out and getting their flu shots.” And the campaign is getting some high-profile recognition. Last year Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chelsea Clinton, and several federal cabinet ministers lent their names to the cause.
Supporting community immunity starts with you
To encourage more Canadians to consider the flu shot, this year’s campaign will be spearheading a Flu Prevention Week, running from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2.
The more people take steps to reduce risk for themselves, the less risk there is for others — especially vulnerable populations such as the elderly, people with weak immune systems, and young children like Jude, who may not be able to build up a strong enough defence on their own. “It can make a difference between life and death for someone in our own family or another family in our community,” Promoli says.