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Tacoma mom who lost child to influenza: ‘I never knew that flu killed’

Scarlet Taylor, 5, died from flu in 2014. Now her mom is urging people to get a flu shot in hopes of preventing more flu deaths.

TACOMA, Wash. — Rebecca Hendricks of Tacoma tries to think about the happy memories.

But every fall it’s hard not to think about what happened to her 5-year-old daughter Scarlet Taylor in December 2014. Two days after her kindergarten teacher sent Taylor home with a fever, she died from the flu.

“I never knew that flu killed,” said Hendricks, “Until… it killed my daughter.”

Since students did not need to have flu vaccines to come to school, Hendricks said she did not think her daughter needed to get a flu shot.

"I laid there with her hoping she would come back to life,” said Hendricks. “You hope something cool like that will happen to you.”

Hendricks started a foundation to raise awareness and funding for flu shots and clinics called The End-FLUenza Project.

She hopes her daughter's story and the coronavirus pandemic encourage more people to get a flu shot.

“You don’t want the flu and coronavirus,” said Hendricks.

Every year the state’s Department of Health recommends everyone over 6 months of age get the flu vaccine.

This year state Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy changed the wording of the annual recommendation.

“Think of it as essential to get a flu vaccine this year,” said Lofy.

RELATED: Health officials say it's important to get flu vaccine in age of COVID-19

Kaiser Permanente Dr. Geoff Ankeney said it’s more important to get a flu shot in 2020 than in any other year, because of COVID-19.

Ankeney said the flu shot is effective and can help someone keep up their immune system, potentially making them less susceptible to getting coronavirus. 

He said it would help someone’s survivability as well.

“If you have the flu and you get COVID at the same time, and you did not have the flu shot,” said Ankeney, “I think your odds of successfully making it through both of those are very low.”

A Kaiser Permanente spokesperson said the hospital group is issuing more flu vaccines than in past years.

RELATED: How can I tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19?