Did you know that every year the influenza virus kills between 4,000 and 36,000 people? How about the fact that in early November 2013, more than 60 percent of Americans still had not yet received a flu vaccine? It’s little-known facts like these that prevented 54 percent of the eligible U.S. population from getting the vaccination last year. And if that number doesn’t strike a chord with you, try this one: 90 percent of the children who died from the flu last year had also not been vaccinated.

I get it, no one like needles. However, gambling by not getting the flu shot is your prerogative, but for children not young enough to make medical decisions, doctors advise it's best to be, as the adage goes, better safe than sorry. Children have weaker immune systems and therefore are more vulnerable to infections and viruses.

No parent expects their child to come down with the flu, but when they do, doctors describe symptom onset as fast, and in severe cases, unfortunately, death is faster. “He came into the emergency department laughing and joking,” Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, describing one of his young flu patients, told Today Parents. In this case, the unvaccinated child shortly had to be switched from an oxygen mask to a CPAP machine, to a ventilator, and eventually to a heart-lung machine. “And then he died,” Offit said.

Offit’s story, though rare, is not isolated. Last year, over 100 children died from the flu, and the sad part is that in most cases it may have been preventable. “We know that about half those kids did not have a pre-existing condition. We know the overwhelming majority, around 90 percent, didn’t get a flu shot,” explained CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. Along with children, health experts are also concerned with the large number of pregnant women who do not receive the flu shot, despite studies showing that the vaccination is safe in all three trimesters of pregnancy.

The reason that so many adults and children fail to get the flu vaccination is partly due to a nationally shared ignorance. In today’s society many people incorrectly consider the flu as inconsequential as the common cold or a simple stomach virus. “You say, ‘Well, it is just the flu virus,’” Offit said, “but influenza makes you sick.” Common symptoms of the flu include a cough and sore throat, high fever, and irritating body aches. However, these otherwise non-life-threatening symptoms can quickly develop into the more serious complications like difficulty breathing, severe vomiting, and even seizures.

In order to combat the worrying number of unvaccinated Americans as flu season quickly approaches, the CDC has gone through great efforts to make obtaining the vaccination as easy as possible. This year over 150 million vaccinations will be available and thanks to new federal laws, people will not have to pay anything to get the jab. “Influenza vaccines are safe, plentiful, and we have more vaccine options than ever before — at least one is right for everyone,” said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Hospital, Today reported.