Partnership Spotlight: Rebecca Hendricks & The End-FLUenza Project
Rebecca Hendricks is the founder of The End-FLUenza Project and a community partner of WithinReach through our Immunization Action Coalition of Washington. Rebecca was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times, and she took some time to sit down with us to answer our questions and share her story for this Partnership Spotlight.
Pictured left is Rebecca Hendricks with picture of Scarlet receiving a Flu vaccine at an End FLU-enza event.
Your website mentions that you were motivated by the loss of your daughter Scarlet to create this foundation, can you tell us a little more about your daughter and how she inspired you to start the Fight the Flu Foundation (now The End-FLUenza Project)?
On December 19, 2014, my 5-year-old daughter Scarlet Anne died. She died from the flu. However, it wasn’t until later that I found out her cause of death was the FLU!
When Scarlet was in the hospital, I was told she had Pneumonia. It wasn’t until 2 weeks after her death did I find out her actual cause of death was flu and there was no sign of Pneumonia in her lungs according to the Medical Examiner. Although, no answer will ever be OK- I felt like pneumonia was easier to accept than flu. I had never heard of anyone dying from flu; I thought my child was the only child on the face of this earth that ever died from flu. I couldn’t wrap my head around how a person could die from just a bad cold… I just couldn’t.
The whole situation happened so suddenly, less than 48 hours. I replayed each day leading up to her death and most of it just didn’t make sense. Literally, the day before she died she was racing me to the door of her dentist office, for her check-up. Then the next moment, I’m sitting there, wondering what I’m going to do with my life? What am I going to do without my first girl? My middle child. My tiny dancer.
Scarlet was fearless. The moment she made an entrance in to this world, she made a statement. Even at just 5, she was passionate and didn’t give up anything without a fight. I feared what each day held for me going forward without her. But it was reflecting on my Scarlet, and how her dreams excited her and how she knew with every ounce of her being that she could be whatever she wanted to be, that gave me strength during my time of grieving. Nothing was just a dream to her. I learned from losing her that being courageous wasn’t the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
If all medicine was 100% effective, my daughter would be alive today. But while no medicine works 100% of the time, any percentage of effectiveness is better than none. I wish someone had told me what I was up against. Perhaps, my daughter would still be living fearlessly singing ‘Royal’ to the top of her lungs in my living room if she had gotten the flu vaccine.
What would you tell a fellow parent who also had never vaccinated or was on the fence about the flu vaccine?
I never vaccinated my family against flu. Quite frankly, I never even gave it second thought. I wasn’t against vaccination. I just didn’t think the flu was deadly like some of these other diseases my children got vaccines for. There were times I had my doubts about the vaccine due to hearsay. So, I decided to learn more about the flu, what it is, how to recognize it, how one gets it and especially, how to prevent it. After lots of reading, research, coffee dates, and phone calls with people like Suzanne, founder of Ladybug House and Cindy Smith from the Pierce Co Immunization Coalition and Christine from Every Child by two–I came to a few conclusions.
1.) My daughter was NOT the only child on the face of this earth who died from flu and in fact, it’s quite common for children and adults, sadly, to die from the flu and it’s still a threat every year.
2.) Vaccination is the best way to protect your children, yourself and your loved ones.
3.) People needed to know the flu can kill you but you can protect yourself.
I was so compelled and eager to tell everyone to get more informed about the flu risks. I wanted to start knocking on doors right then. I needed to get this important message out- and the people that needed to hear it, weren’t looking for it. It was in that moment I decided to create the Fight the Flu Foundation, now named The End-FLUenza Project.
It didn’t take long for the organization to establish a nationwide campaign around flu awareness — The Flu Hat Campaign. This campaign became an avenue for several moms with similar experiences as myself to find our place/ our purpose in this world after such tragic loss. The Flu Hat campaign gives us an opportunity to share our lost loved ones story and let everyone know they were real humans and the Flu was their cause of death. Through sharing our stories we were educating parents on protecting their vulnerable new baby from flu.
Can you tell me a little more about what The End-FLUenza Project is and what it does?
The End-FLUenza Project is a national organization who’s mission is to empower families within communities through education and awareness- to make informed decisions on preventative measures they can take to protect against influenza.
The Flu Hat Campaign is our major year around campaign. Our concept involves creating opportunities for flu education, by distributing hand-made baby hats to new mothers. These “made with love” hats are packaged inside bags, along with flu awareness/ educational materials. The baby bag also includes a story of a child who has either been affected by the flu or lost their fight to the flu. With our stories, we give parents a chance to make an informed decision with the information we presented in their ‘made with love’ mother bag. You can follow the campaign on social media through the hashtag: #ProtectEveryoneAroundYou
Of course, the key component of this campaign has been procuring the large number of hats needed. We are fortunate and grateful to have enlisted many wonderful volunteers specifically for this particular task. Generous and caring people from all over the world have been contributing their time (and yarn) to crochet or knit hats for us. The organization has received hats from as far as India! We are so thrilled to have delivered over 11,000 hats to 45 different hospitals in 26 states!
We also launched our annual Walk to Fight the Flu. This family fun, vendor and educational event brings the community together for an exciting day of shopping, games, music, raffles, the 5k walk, most importantly— our flu clinic! We offer NO COST flu shots to the entire public! Thanks to local pharmacies and our very own Medical Reserve Corps. This event is working its way to each state, we add a new state each year. This year will be our 3rd year. We will have Washington, Massachusetts and New York!
How is The End-FLUenza Project connected to WithinReach
Not only am I the founder of The End-FLUenza Project, but I am also now an active leader within the Pierce County Immunization Coalition as the Community Education Chairman. While there are so many reasons people don’t get a flu shot- it is my tireless life journey to present factual information, share the precious lives of those affected by the flu. And most importantly, I want to empower each individual I come in contact with to make an informed decision on their lifestyle actions to protect themselves and everyone around them.
All pictures generously provided by Rebecca Hendricks.
Congratulations to Washington’s Immunization Award Winners!
Every other year, the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington (IACW) recognizes people and organizations in our state that are truly going above and beyond to protect our communities from vaccine-preventable diseases. This year, we presented the awards at a special coalition meeting on April 20, during National Infant Immunization Week.
The 2016 IACW Collaborator award goes to the Auburn School District School Nurses, represented by Jan Schneider, Jill Olson, and Tami Petrina. Together with the district’s health technicians, they reduced the number of students in their district who were out of compliance (meaning their immunization paperwork wasn’t submitted properly) by two-thirds, from 852 to 295. These numbers represent countless hours spent researching immunization records and contacting students, parents, guardians, and health care providers. In one example of how far-reaching this work can be, when one student visited their health care provider to catch up on their immunizations, they also received a much needed eye exam and glasses. Thank you, Jan, Jill, Tami, and your colleagues for your hard work to ensure that Auburn’s students are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Our 2016 IACW Advocate is Becky Doughty, Health Services Coordinator of Spokane Public Schools. She has worked diligently to coordinate, review, and update immunization records for each student in her district – a total of 35,000! Working closely with school staff, Becky achieved a decrease in kindergarten out of compliance rates from 24.6% to 0.9%. Additionally, she supported the development of pop-up clinics to provide immunizations to students in schools. In addition to her work in schools, Becky is founder and director of the Inland Northwest Transitional Respite Program, which provides shelter-based respite care to men and women experiencing homelessness. Typically, medical respite care involves acute and post-acute care for those too ill to recover on the streets, but Becky has ensured that preventive measures, including vaccines, also reach this very vulnerable population. She also implemented a program to ensure that all staff at the Respite Program are fully up to date with hepatitis B and influenza vaccines.
Finally, we partnered with the Washington State Department of Health to recognize Dr. John Dunn as the 2016 CDC Childhood Immunization Champion for Washington. Whether it’s appearing on local news segments, answering colleagues’ questions about vaccines, providing care to patients and their families, or serving on numerous local boards that make decisions about vaccines in the state of Washington, Dr. Dunn steps up to support vaccines. He serves on the Washington Vaccine Association, the Vaccine Advisory Committee, and the Vax Northwest Oversight Committee. He also chairs the Immunization Program at Group Health. In these positions, he ensures that policies and practices are in place to keep state immunization levels high. Through his research work at Vax Northwest, Dr. Dunn continues to learn about vaccine hesitancy and apply his findings to his everyday interactions with children and their families.
The work that Jan, Jill, Tami, Becky, and John do every day touches each of us – when we go about our daily lives in a Washington State that is safe from the diseases that vaccines prevent. Personally, I’m grateful for the opportunity we have at WithinReach to collaborate with, support, and recognize such fabulous partners!
Top Ten Ways to Be A Positive Voice For Vaccines!
3. Get up to date on your own vaccines. Check if you are up to date in MyIR. Haven’t used MyIR yet? Sign up by visiting the Washington State Department of Health’s website and choose Option 1. Once you are in the system, you can print off your recommended immunizations and bring them to your healthcare provider or pharmacist. While you’re at it, check to make sure your kids and your family members are up to date as well.
4. Share your immunization story. Why are you passionate about vaccines? Whether you’ve personally experienced a vaccine preventable disease, or someone you love has been impacted, sharing your story with us to use on our website and social media is a powerful way to be an advocate. Contact us at email@example.com.
6. Advocate for immunizations to friends and family. Vaccines aren’t a “taboo” topic – they’re an important part of preventive health. Have the courage to ask family members if they’re up to date on their vaccines, if they got their annual flu vaccine, or if they’re planning to immunize their newborn. And remember, most people fully vaccinate on time. Here’s a great article on how to approach the subject using the HEART method for talking about immunization with friends.
7. Become a member of the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington (IACW). The IACW meets quarterly to learn about and collaborate on a variety of immunization topics. Recent topics have included: HPV prevention, vaccine hesitancy, and global health initiatives. Additionally, there is a monthly newsletter with hot topics, resources, and news articles to keep you up-to-date! To learn more and become a member, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. Take action. Your help in promoting vaccines in Washington State will help keep our community healthy and decrease the transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases. Sign up for our Immunization Action Alert to be notified when you can lend your voice to advocating for immunizations in Washington.
9. Write a letter to the editor. Let your pro-vaccine stance be known to your community and elected officials. Contact us if you need help with any ideas or templates.
10. Thank an Immunizer. Next time you are at your healthcare provider’s office or the pharmacy, thank an immunizer. These are the people that protect health by vaccinating, and people often forget to thank someone holding a needle!
Recognizing Our Immunization Partners
First, the IACW Advocate Award is given to an individual active in the IACW who has given tremendous amounts of time and been successful in enhancing statewide immunization efforts. There were many inspiring and inspired nominees this year, but our team of reviewers selected Celina Yarkin, a tireless immunization advocate living on Vashon Island. We admire Celina for her willingness to have courageous conversations about immunization, especially in a community where there are many vaccine hesitant individuals and where she has faced some harsh rebukes for her position on vaccines. Celina’s work has been featured in books, documentaries, and various media outlets—and we thank her for being such a credible, passionate, and consistent advocate of vaccines as a means to protect the health of our community. As her nominator, Rebecca Dubin at Seattle-King County Public Health wrote, Celina’s voice “has encouraged others to reconsider what they believe about vaccines, and to add their voices in favor of immunization.” Thank you, Celina!
Second, the IACW Collaborator award is given to an organization active in the IACW that has impacted their community through collaboration to help promote, educate, and increase immunization rates. Among the many nominees, our team selected Tieton Village Drug, led by Nancy Hecox, PharmD, in Yakima, WA in recognition of their exceptional work to get free vaccines to adults in the Yakima area. Collaborating with many partners, Tieton Village Drug created a unique program to allow pharmacy access to free vaccines for the uninsured and underinsured.” We are deeply impressed with the commitment demonstrated by Tieton Village Drug, which has administered thousands of doses of vaccine since this program’s inception three years ago, including more than 6,000 doses of Tdap. Thank you, Nancy, and the Tieton Village Drug team for your incredible work to protect our community.
Achieving better health outcomes requires collaboration and concerted effort from a broad group of stakeholders. The winners of these awards maximize the potential for residents of our state to be healthy and free from vaccine preventable disease, and we thank them for their support of the efforts of the IACW.