According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 40 percent of Hispanic Americans 6 months of age and older received their influenza last flu season. This rate is alarmingly low, especially because Hispanic Americans are considered at high risk of developing influenza-related complications due to increased incidences of certain chronic medical conditions like asthma and diabetes.

Cuban-American actress and multi ALMA Award winner, Maria Canals Barrera, best known for taking care of her onscreen family as the “proud Latina” mother on the Disney Channel Emmy-winning TV series “Wizards of Waverly Place,” is taking a leading role in the Rostros de la gripe campaign to help educate the public about the importance of influenza immunization for everyone 6 months of age and older. Rostros de la gripe is a Spanish language influenza educational initiative made possible through a collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.

With more than 50 million Hispanic Americans recommended for annual vaccination, it is critically important for the entire Hispanic community to understand that they need to get immunized to help protect themselves from contracting the flu and to help prevent the spread of this serious disease to family members and other individuals who may be even more vulnerable to influenza disease.

Maria knows that everyone is at risk of contracting and spreading the flu. That is why she made sure that she and her daughters got vaccinated in preparation for this flu season, and she plans to continue to ensure they all get their flu shots every year.

“As a parent, there are many things we cannot control, but getting flu shots for my girls and me is one way to help keep our family and our community healthy this flu season,” said Maria. “I have joined the American Lung Association’s Rostros de la gripe campaign to help educate Hispanic Americans about the importance of influenza vaccination this and every year.”

The CDC reports that up to 9.5 million Hispanic Americans will suffer from the flu in an average year. “The Hispanic community is at greater risk for developing complications from the flu due to increased incidences of certain chronic medical conditions, yet vaccination rates for Hispanics are low making it that much more important to educate this group about the importance of influenza vaccination,” said Luis Rodriguez, MD, Chief of the Department of Pediatrics at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, NYU School of Medicine, speaking on behalf of the American Lung Association. “Vaccination is safe and effective and the best way to help prevent influenza. There are vaccine options for every age – children, adults and seniors – so people should talk with their health care provider to find the option that’s right for them and their families this season.”

Influenza Vaccination is Important for Family Members and Caregivers
Through the Rostros de la gripe campaign, Maria is joined by other mothers and families who have had personal experiences with influenza to help motivate families to help protect themselves from influenza by getting vaccinated. Various celebrities and health officials are also part of the campaign to represent the diverse “faces” of influenza.

New York City native Ramona Cruz is a mother of 4, grandmother of 7 and great-grandmother of 5, who always thought influenza could be prevented by home remedies until she contracted influenza and developed complications including a serious case of bronchitis and chronic asthma. Ramona now encourages her entire family to get vaccinated and knows there are others out there who need to be educated so they can help protect themselves and their families.

Maria, Ramona and other campaign “faces” are being featured in a multitude of national public awareness activities designed to reach the public and health care providers with their stories about how influenza can quickly affect the lives of anyone.

Photographs and profiles of all the Faces of Influenza can be found on the campaign website, The website also offers the public and health care providers more information about influenza and the importance of immunization, educational materials and links to other resources.

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