Flu vaccinations for children substantially reduce number of office visits and hospital admissions


Nurses in all specialties are familiar with the considerable patient and provider toll exacted by the flu.  Questions have remained, however, about the risks versus the benefits of vaccinating children.  Ongoing research provides optimistic information about the benefits of flu vaccination.  It appears that children under the age of 5 who receive an annual flu shot have greatly reduced numbers of visits to pediatric offices and hospitals because of flu-related illness.

A new study that analyzes how many outpatient visits or hospitalizations might be prevented by childhood influenza immunization finds that vaccinating only half U.S. children could eliminate as many as 650,000 doctor's office visits and 2,250 hospitalizations in a year.   Also, according to Elizabeth Lewis, MD, one of the authors of the study published in Pediatrics magazine, only 12 to 42 children need to be vaccinated in order to prevent a singular flu-related office visit.  The effect may be even greater than reported if vaccinated children attend preschool or daycare centers where those children come into contact with unvaccinated children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, a leading authoritative body who guides pediatric physician and nursing practice, recommends that all children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years receive an annual flu shot. Since the specific virus responsible for the flu varies from year to year, determining the preventive impact of influenza vaccination of children has been challenging. For the current study, the authors analyzed existing data from several sources reporting on flu-related outpatient visits or hospitalizations covering several flu seasons. These included years in which the flu season was relatively mild and well as those in which flu was widespread and caused more serious illness.

Each year's flu vaccine needs to be designed in advance, based on which strains of virus are anticipated to be prevalent in the coming year. Because the accuracy of that prediction varies, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine also varies from year to year. To account for that variation, the research team calculated results based on several potential rates of vaccine efficacy.

Another important consideration, highlighted by Dr. Lewis and her study, is that vaccinating children not only protects the health of those children and the children around them.  Vaccinating children protects other people who may be particularly vulnerable to the flu, including grandparents and other family members.

Copyright 2007- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


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