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Kristi Yamaguchi and Her Mother Lead Moms' Initiative to Boost Influenza Vaccination Rates Among Families

-- Focused effort to reach mothers, the family's "chief medical officer"

-- Initiative addresses low influenza vaccination rates—less than half of U.S. immunized

-- All family members 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated against influenza this and every year

Sep 15, 2011

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Olympic Gold Medalist Kristi Yamaguchi and her mother, Carole Yamaguchi, are leading mothers across the U.S. in a national public awareness campaign solely aimed at increasing alarmingly low influenza immunization rates among families.

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Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get an annual influenza vaccination, more than 300 million Americans should be immunized. Yet, the CDC reports that less than half of the U.S. population is actually getting vaccinated to help protect themselves against influenza and its serious complications. The American Lung Association, as part of its Faces of Influenza program, is stressing the critical role that mothers play in making sure their families are immunized every influenza season.

"Mothers often serve as the family's 'chief medical officer,' and we frequently are the primary health care decision-makers who ensure our children, our husband, our parents and our husband's parents get a flu shot every year," said Kristi Yamaguchi. "My mother has agreed to join this initiative to put a spotlight on the seriousness of influenza and to help reach other mothers about the importance of annual vaccination."

As an older adult, Carole Yamaguchi has a special role in the campaign. She will emphasize the importance of vaccination for people 65 years of age and older, who are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu, which can lead to hospitalization and even death.

"Influenza vaccination is important for everyone in the family 6 months of age and older, but many older adults don't realize that getting vaccinated is especially important," said Carole Yamaguchi. "As we age, our immune systems often get weaker, and we may not be able to fight the flu as well as we used to. I encourage others who are 65 years of age and older to talk to their health care provider to learn more about the seriousness of influenza and the flu vaccine options for our age group."

Everyone is at risk of contracting and spreading influenza, and those who do contract it are also at risk for developing serious complications related to the disease. Despite these risks, immunization rates in groups with the highest risk fall far short of public health goals every year.

"It is important for people to remember that influenza can strike anyone and that we all are 'faces' of influenza who the CDC recommends to get vaccinated," said Norman H. Edelman, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. "The best way to help prevent influenza is by getting vaccinated, but everyone should also be sure to wash their hands, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home from school or work when they are sick to help prevent the spread of influenza disease."

Moms to Reach Other Moms with Stories

Kristi and Carole Yamaguchi are joined by other mothers and families who have had personal experiences with influenza and have lost loved ones to the disease. They want to help prevent the tragedies they experienced from happening to others. Various celebrities and health officials are also part of the campaign to represent the diverse "faces" of influenza.

Dallas, Texas mother, Rebecca Wooters, has three school-aged children, including a son with asthma. She lost both a cousin and a high-school friend due to influenza-related complications. In Chicago, Ill., Lisa Amoruso, a mother of two, contracted a life-threatening case of influenza, causing her to be hospitalized in a coma and faced with a five-month recovery process. Other mothers are joining the campaign with similar experiences with influenza to help inform parents that the disease can happen to anyone.

The campaign's "faces" will be featured in a multitude of national public awareness activities including media outreach initiatives, broadcast public service announcement campaigns and educational materials designed to reach consumers and health care providers.

A comprehensive website,, is available for consumers and health care providers to find more information about influenza and the importance of immunization. Visitors to the site also can view the photographs and stories of the featured "faces" of influenza.

About Influenza

Influenza is a serious respiratory illness. Each year in the U.S., on average, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. Vaccination is safe and effective and the best way to help prevent influenza.

The CDC recommends vaccination for everyone in the U.S. 6 months of age and older; however groups at higher risk of developing influenza-related complications include people 50 years of age and older; children 6 months to 18 years of age; pregnant women; people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diabetes and others; and residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes. The CDC also recommends a yearly vaccination for those who come into close contact with high-risk groups, such as household contacts, caregivers and health care providers.

You should be immunized as soon as vaccine is available in the late summer or early fall. If you don't have a chance to get vaccinated early in the influenza season, immunization through the winter and even into the spring is beneficial. In fact, as long as influenza viruses are in circulation, it's not too late to get vaccinated. This is because, in many seasons, influenza activity doesn't peak until winter or early spring. It only takes about two weeks for the vaccine to help protect against the virus.

For More Information

For more information about the Faces of Influenza educational initiative, visit For information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or log onto The American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.

About the American Lung Association 

Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a Charity Navigator Four Star Charity and holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit

CONTACT: Mary Havell
American Lung Association
(202) 715-3459

SOURCE American Lung Association