Helping the Youngest Kids Avoid the Flu

Flu vaccine use in Connecticut led to drop in child hospitalizations

(RxWiki News) The flu vaccine is not perfect, but it has been shown to reduce a person's risk of getting the flu. For children in particular, this can mean avoiding the hospital.

A new report revealed that the requirement for preschool children in Connecticut to get the flu vaccine led to a significant drop in flu-related hospitalizations in that state.

The flu vaccine has been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for children aged 6 months through 1 year old since 2004.

In 2006, the CDC expanded the recommendation for the flu vaccine to children aged 2 through 4.

"Discuss the flu vaccine with your family doctor."

The report, led by James L. Hadler, MD, of the Yale School of Public Health, looked at the effects of requiring the flu vaccine in child care programs in Connecticut.

Connecticut became the second state after New Jersey to implement a requirement in September 2010 regarding the flu vaccine for children.

The rule required all children aged 6 months up to 5 years old to receive at least one dose of the flu vaccine to attend a licensed child care program.

The first effect was an unsurprising increase in the number of children in that age group who received the vaccine.

The flu vaccination rate in the 2009-2010 flu season was 68 percent, which increased to 84 percent during the 2012-2013 season.

The national flu vaccination rate for this age group in 2012-2013 was 70 percent, among the lowest for all vaccines.

The researchers then compared the rate of influenza-related hospitalizations in Connecticut to the rates in 10 other US sites included in the CDC's Emerging Infections Program.

Of all the sites, Connecticut had the biggest decrease in flu-related hospitalizations among children aged 4 and under during the 2012-2013 flu season, as compared to the 2007-2008 season.

Flu-related hospitalizations for this age group decreased 12 percent from 2007-2008 to 2012-2013.

Connecticut's children under 4 years old also comprised the smallest percentage of overall hospitalizations compared to the other 10 sites.

"Requiring vaccination for child care admission might have helped to increase vaccination rates in Connecticut and reduced serious morbidity from influenza," the researchers wrote.

The other states included in the analysis were Colorado, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Albany in New York and Rochester in New York.

Thomas Seman, MD,  a pediatrician at North Shore Pediatrics in Danvers, Mass., said the results of this report are not surprising.

" Any effective vaccine's goal is to help reduce the disease in general, but most importantly, reduce the more severe aspects of the disease," he said. "With mandatory vaccination, we normally see a reduction of disease in those that are vaccinated and in those who are close to the vaccinated children."

This concept of increased protection for everyone in the community is referred to as herd immunity, he said.

"The most interesting part of this study is that even though the flu vaccine was mandatory, only 84 percent of the children were vaccinated," he said. "I wonder what was the tolerance for missing the vaccine or the reason for refusal.
However, the value of the study again affirms the value of vaccination protecting our children."

The report was published March 7 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study was funded by the CDC, and the authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 8, 2014