EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s National Influenza Vaccination Week which comes at the traditional start of what the CDC says is peak flu activity.

A mother who suffered a tragic loss is sharing her message of vaccine advocacy.

“When you lose a child, it changes the entire course of your life,” Serese Marotta said.

It happened to Serese Marotta in 2009. That’s when her previously healthy 5-year-old son, Joseph, was stricken with the flu. He had not received a flu shot which only about 50% of the eligible population does. The little boy died from the virus.

“People think it’s just the flu. How often have we heard that?” Marotta asked.

Unfortunately for thousands of adults and children each year, the flu turns deadly. So do other viruses whose threat can be reduced and even prevented with vaccines which are highly encouraged.

“Even with the CDC and healthcare providers putting out those recommendations, we still see people who are not so sure about those vaccines,” Marotta told Eyewitness News.

It’s why Marotta has made getting vaccinated her personal and professional mission. She serves as director of community outreach and advocacy for the national non-profit Vaccinate Your Family.

Marotta is getting help this week sharing her message of advocacy from the mother of 10-year-old Teresa Sperry. The Suffolk, Virginia girl died from COVID-19 complications in September 2021. At the time, she was not yet eligible for the COVID vaccine. Now, Nicole Sperry is helping encourage those who are eligible to give vaccines a shot.

“The way that I approach people about vaccines is the same way that she would approach people to give them compliments: with an open heart, with a kind heart and a smile,” Sperry told Eyewitness News.

“I know that we have the capacity to hopefully change hearts and minds and to save lives by getting more people vaccinated,” Marotta hoped.

Head to its website to learn more about the non-profit Vaccinate Your Family and how to stay on schedule with your family’s vaccinations.