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Can School-Based Flu Programs Affect Illness and Attendance?

July 30, 2014

Can School-Based Flu Programs Affect Illness and Attendance?

  1. Deborah Lehman, MD

Influenza vaccination programs increased immunization rates, lowered rates of confirmed influenza, and improved attendance in vaccinated students.

  1. Deborah Lehman, MD

School-age children have high influenza attack rates and serve as community vectors for influenza spread. Previous studies have demonstrated that vaccinating children against influenza reduces community influenza rates in all age groups. However, annual immunization with seasonal influenza vaccine is a challenge. Alternate venues such as community sites, pharmacies, and schools can increase vaccination rates.

Researchers conducted active surveillance for influenza-like illness (ILI) with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) confirmation during a single influenza season in 4455 children attending four elementary schools with influenza vaccine programs and four control schools in Los Angeles County. Immunization rates among intervention school students were 27%–47% versus 0.8%–4.0% at control schools. Overall, 21% of 1021 ILI episodes were PCR-positive for influenza. Children at intervention schools, regardless of their immunization status, were 31% less likely to have influenza than children at control schools. The effect was most significant in schools with 50% vaccination coverage. Children at intervention schools had lower absentee rates, and vaccinated children had significantly less absenteeism than unvaccinated children.

Comment

Schools are efficient breeding grounds for the spread of influenza. Offering influenza vaccine where children spend most of their time dramatically increased immunization rates and reduced infection rates and school absenteeism. Although the study was small and geographically limited, the results support an intriguing strategy for preventing influenza in children.

  • Disclosures for Deborah Lehman, MD at time of publication Nothing to disclose

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Reader Comments (1)

PAUL LATONERO

Excellent article

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