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Become a Flu Fighter

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius discusses the newly launched Facebook challenge.

National Influenza Vaccination Week is coming to a close. It was a great week. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its partners announced a number of new initiatives and held events across the country designed to spread the word about the importance of getting the H1N1 flu vaccine.

The fact is that flu season is unpredictable and we don’t know whether there will be additional waves of flu illness. H1N1 is still circulating, it’s still dangerous, and there are still lives to be saved. That’s why it’s so critical for everyone to get vaccinated.

And we need your help. So, today, I am challenging you to become a “Flu Fighter” on Facebook.

Earlier this week, we launched a new Facebook application called “I’m a Flu Fighter.” This application allows users to select a Flu Fighting character and tell their friends that they received the flu vaccination and urge others to do the same. Users can also learn more about the flu vaccine and use the vaccine locator to find a clinic nearby where they can get vaccinated.

People often rely on the advice of close friends and family when it comes to personal matters of health. Through emerging social media tools like Facebook, we can share updates with our friends and family and promote positive health behaviors. This application gives people a fun way to encourage friends and family to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, and as a Flu Fighter, you are also helping to protect the people around you.  It’s also particularly important right now, since we’re only at the beginning of the ordinary flu season.

If one person tells 5 friends, and they tell 5 friends each, and each of those friends tells another 5 friends, that is already 156 people. Imagine how many people we could encourage to get vaccinated if we each told just 5 friends -- or, even better, all of our Facebook friends. Together we can be Flu Fighters, and protect our families, friends, and communities from the flu, one vaccination at a time.

Become a Flu Fighter by trying out the application, and visit our Facebook page to become a fan of fighting the flu.

Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Update: The application was developed through the HealthySocial research project at Children’s Hospital Boston in collaboration with HHS.