Families Fighting Flu

McLean students bring awareness to importance of getting vaccinated


Supporting with Softball- FFF members, and their softball team, display their support for getting vaccinated. By being apart of sports outreach, they fulfill their roles by informing all the players.

Makda Bekele and Layla Zaidi

Death is spontaneous. It approaches everyone in their lifetime. In this unprecedented time, and with flu season approaching, it is almost impossible to stop the rising health-related deaths. Families Fighting Flu (FFF) is a national nonprofit organization focused on using education to advocate protecting children and their families against influenza.

Because this organization has expanded from Arlington to the rest of the U.S., mini boards have been established throughout the country. These boards are concerned with organizing flu shot drives in the area, and finding ways to improve their educational strategies. One of the junior youth boards is located in Mclean and consists of five Mclean High School student members. Through social media challenges and other events, the organization stresses the importance of getting vaccinated.

“I became involved with Families Fighting Flu following the loss of my son, Joseph, to the flu in 2009,” Chief Operating Officer Serese Marotta said. “Our organization includes families like mine whose loved ones have suffered serious medical complications or died from influenza, as well as healthcare professionals and advocates committed to flu prevention.”

The organization strives to empower youth to raise awareness of the importance of getting a flu shot through the creation of two teams: one focusing on social media outreach and the other on reaching out to students through youth sports.

“As a part of the social media team, our responsibilities include posting on various social media platforms, such as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc., to raise awareness and encourage people to get their flu shot,” Skoric said.

In addition to utilizing social media and sports programs to raise awareness, members have been given several other opportunities to learn, and then educate others, on the prominence of influenza all over the world.

“Recently, we were in a research project with Iowa State University with the goal to identify which countries are having a flu outbreak,” Skoric said.

The University of Iowa hosts a project annually during Influenza Week, spanning from December 6 to December 12, a national awareness week focused on highlighting the importance of the influenza vaccine. The project intends to educate youth in identifying flu prominence in different areas of the world. In May of 2020, FFF members were used in a test trial to see how Influenza Week would work virtually.

“We went to breakout rooms where each one was a different country, and we had to figure out if that country had a flu outbreak or not,” Skoric said.

Along with educational efforts, FFF’s has also worked to expand the national recommendation of when to receive the flu vaccine.

“[We changed] the recommendation for annual flu vaccination by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to include everyone six months and older,” Marotta said. “Prior to that, annual flu vaccination was only recommended for specific individuals and not the entire population.”

According to the CDC, there are 24,000 to 61,000 flu-related deaths per year, proving that the threat the flu poses is one that should not be ignored. However, many Americans tend to believe the exact opposite, with only 49.2% of the American population receiving a vaccine during the 2019 flu season.

“We want others to know how serious the flu can be,” Marotta said.

According to the FFF website, influenza affects 5-20% of the U.S. population and is one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. Especially with the rise of flu cases in the winter months  and the radical effect of the coronavirus, the FFF emphasizes that it is essential to protect oneself.

“Flu doesn’t discriminate and now that we’re heading into flu season while our country is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic makes annual flu vaccination even more important. Flu vaccination will help protect you and your loved ones, as well as help conserve medical resources that may be needed for COVID-19 patients, “Marotta said.

FFF has already helped tens of thousands of families and children all across the nation and has no plan to stop any time soon.

“Joining the movement is a way to become more connected in your community,” Skoric said. “Help raise awareness for people to get the flu vaccination.”