September 20, 2011
Expanding Flu Shots To Older Children Reduces ER Visits
Researchers said on Monday that giving preschoolers a flu shot effectively cut visits to the emergency room for flu-like illness by over a third.The team used real-time data from hospital emergency departments in Boston and Montreal to study the impact of a 2006 change in the U.S. to recommend flu vaccinations among children aged 2 to 4.
Health authorities in Canada did not change flu vaccine recommendations to include these children until 2010.
"The differences in the U.S. and Canadian policies created conditions for a natural experiment for evaluating the effects of U.S. policy change in the target age group," John Brownstein of Children's Hospital Boston, who worked on the study, said in a statement.
He said using hospital-based data allowed the researchers to assess the effects of policy changes quicker than other studies that use more traditional methods.
Out of the 1,043,989 emergency room visits, the team compared data on 114,657 visits for flu-like illness at Children's Hospital Boston and Montreal Children's Hospital from 2000 to 2008.
The researchers found emergency department visits for flu-like symptoms dropped by 34 percent at Children's Hospital Boston compared with Montreal Children's after the 2006 U.S. policy change.
The team said vaccinating preschoolers may have cut the spread of the virus to their older siblings, or the change could have motivated families to vaccinate older children as well.
About 115 U.S. children and teens die from the flu each year, according to government statistics.
The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
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