Published Date: 12/29/19
A recent study published in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society found that less than 25% of daycare and preschool directors require that enrolled children receive the flu vaccine. The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated, with exceptions for certain medical conditions. Only 13.1% require caregivers get vaccinated.
Timothy R. Shope, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh performed the study along with colleagues. Shope told Healio, a company dedicated to medical news, education and information for physicians and health care practitioners, “Young children attending childcare settings are at the highest risk for acquiring influenza and suffering influenza morbidity and mortality. We should place extra energy and emphasis on convincing parents of these children to immunize against influenza.”
The flu vaccine can reduce children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit admission by as much as 74%, and adult flu-related intensive care admission by up to 82%, according to the CDC.
Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Ohio, and New York City all require the flu vaccine for children in daycare, preschool, or pre-k programs. In 2004, an Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that all states make it mandatory for formal group childcare settings. Generally, state laws for children enrolling in childcare programs or K-12 school help ensure that children are vaccinated, especially as more states restrict exemptions.
Without laws in place, providers and parents may view the flu vaccine as less essential as other mandatory ones. However, increasing vaccination rates is critical to prevent deaths from the flu. As of December 2019, 5.7% of people who have contracted the flu have died. That’s below epidemic threshold levels of 6.7%, but includes 22 children and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high flu activity has been reported in 25 states, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Shope says he’s not surprised by the results of the study. “When states do not consider this an important enough public health problem to legislate, it is not surprising that childcare center directors are hesitant to implement a requirement for vaccination of children and adult caregivers.”
All directors are encouraged to require both staff and children obtain the flu vaccine early in the season. Generally the vaccine is available in September or October and takes about two weeks for your body to produce antibodies and be protected. Flu season peaks between December and February.
Beyond the vaccine, a simple humidifier can reduce the spread of the flu in your daycare or preschool. Read more about it here.