Grieving mom urges parents to promise to get flu vaccinations

(BPT) – Two-year-old Reese Pena was an energetic, healthy toddler loved dearly by her entire family when her life was tragically cut short by the flu. Now, her mom is urging other parents to make a promise to vaccinate their families this year and every year.

Reese became ill with what her family assumed was a cold, but turned out to be Influenza B. She seemed like she was doing well, even getting back to eating and playing, but the flu infection attacked her heart and Reese died in her sleep.

Reese’s mom RoxxAnn says, “I did not know the flu could take her from us. The flu is dangerous, especially to children — and a flu vaccine could have prevented her death. I want every parent to make the Families Fighting Flu Vaccination Promise to protect their loved ones this year.”

Make the Families Fighting Flu Vaccination Promise

The Families Fighting Flu Vaccination Promise will help make sure annual flu vaccination doesn’t fall off your list of things to do. Go to and make the promise to get vaccinated, and you will be sent a reminder to get your flu shot. Protect yourself, your family and your community, and promise to take other family members to get vaccinated as well.

Why you should get a flu vaccine — especially this year

Nearly everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated to help protect themselves and their community against the dangers of the flu. Making a plan to get a flu vaccine is even more crucial this year to keep everyone in your family and community healthy — and to help to prevent your local health system from becoming overburdened when both the flu and COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

Unlike COVID-19, there is a vaccine to help prevent the flu. In cases when the vaccine does not completely prevent you from contracting the flu, it can make your flu symptoms much less severe, reducing the risk of hospitalization and death for those who get vaccinated. The flu vaccination helps reduce the need for ICU treatment by 82% in adults and 74% in children.

How can you tell if someone has the flu or COVID-19?

According to the CDC, the flu and COVID-19 have many of the same symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience these common symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some may have vomiting and diarrhea, but it’s more common in children than adults

What are the main differences in symptoms?

The key difference in symptoms between the flu and COVID-19 is that people with COVID-19 sometimes experience a change in or a loss of taste and/or smell.

The flu and COVID-19 also affect children differently. The flu is often more deadly to children, which makes it all the more important to get kids — and their family members — vaccinated as early in the season as possible.

To honor Reese, her entire family gets vaccinated against the flu every year. They hope Reese’s story will help other families learn how to prevent the same tragedy from happening to them. For more information on preventing the flu, visit