A convenient way to vaccinate more kids against the flu, and save more lives

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In an effort to increase rates of flu vaccination among elementary school age children, researchers from the UC Davis Health System, the Monroe County, NY Department of Public Health, the University of Rochester Medical Center and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the key may be offering the flu vaccination at elementary schools. In fact, according to their study, published in the journal Vaccine, rates of vaccination increased by 13.2 percent when children had access to vaccines in school. This represents important progress, considering that only 40 percent of children received the flu vaccine during the 2012-2013 flu season, and 90 percent of those children who died from the flu last season were not vaccinated.

Researchers looked at 18 urban and 14 suburban elementary schools in Rochester, NY totaling about 13,000 children. Flu vaccinations were offered in 21 of those schools four weeks apart. Although vaccination rates in those schools did increase, the cost still remains high due to administration time, as well as costs associated with getting consent from parents. However, researchers are continuing to look into ways to reduce cost and are prepared to recommend school-located vaccination programs as a national model if they are successful.

And Byung-Kwang Yoo, an associate professor of public health sciences at UC Davis and lead author of the study remains hopeful, as he points out that Primary-care practices may not have the capacity to vaccinate all US children against seasonal influenza. If the CDC s recommendations were followed, primary-care offices would have to accommodate 42 million additional patient visits during the five-month window for each flu season.

But on a related note, now wherever the vaccination ends up being given, at least more options will be available. The FDA has just approved Sanofi s Fluzone Quadrivalent vaccine for adolescents, adults, and infants and children 6 months and older. This vaccine is made up of two A strains and two B strains of the flu, which will offer additional protection.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross says, It s very clear that given the high rates of unvaccinated children, efforts need to be concentrated on finding ways to increase this number. Schools are definitely a logical place to start because of their reach, and if proven cost effective, this new public health effort has the potential to greatly increase the number of children receiving the flu shot especially given the over-crowding and long waits for routine immunizations now plaguing many primary care and pediatric offices.