HONOLULU -- Research presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) shows that by starting flu vaccinations in August -- ahead of the start of the typical flu vaccination season -- healthcare providers could reach an additional 10.7 million children when these children are already in the doctor's office. The potential impact of early vaccination was underscored by another study that found that less than 20 percent of school-aged children between five and 18 years of age were vaccinated in their pediatricians' offices during the past influenza season. This study also showed that, on average, only about 40 percent of those children recommended to receive two doses of influenza vaccine actually received the second dose.
In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to expand flu vaccination recommendations to include all children six months through 18 years of age. Previously, the recommendations were for vaccination of children from six months to 59 months of age. The new guidelines add approximately 30 million children to the recommended pediatric population to be vaccinated annually against influenza.
"MedImmune is committed to doing all it can to support the ACIP's expanded influenza vaccination recommendations and to work toward our common goal to vaccinate more children against the flu each year," said John Trizzino, vice president of vaccines. "The data presented at the PAS meeting highlight the need to use every possible opportunity to improve vaccination rates and compliance, including vaccinating children when they visit their healthcare providers for back-to-school check-ups and sports physicals. We are focused on delivering FluMist(R) (Influenza Virus Vaccine Live, Intranasal) into the marketplace this year beginning in August."
To examine the potential impact of early influenza vaccination, MedImmune researchers analyzed the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a federally funded survey of families, individuals, and medical providers that collects data on health services utilized by Americans. They compared the number of children who had at least one healthcare provider visit between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 (the traditional influenza vaccination period) to the number of children who had at least one visit between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31. The analysis found that by extending the flu vaccination season into August, an additional 6.6 million children would have vaccination opportunity during a well visit and 10.7 million children would have an opportunity to get a flu vaccine during an already-existing provider visit (well or sick).
Another study, presented by Praful U. Bhatt, MD, of Lock Haven, Pa., assessed influenza vaccination use in pediatricians' offices. Researchers selected a nationally representative sample of 44 pediatric practices in advance of the 2007-2008 influenza season. In these offices, the mean influenza vaccination rates were 37 percent in six to 23 month olds (1), 24 percent in 24 to 59 month olds, 19 percent in five to eight year olds, and 12 percent in nine to 17 year olds through February 29, 2008.
Additionally, the study looked at compliance with the recommendation that children younger than nine years of age who have not been previously vaccinated receive two doses of influenza vaccine at least four weeks apart. Compliance rates for receiving the second dose were 55 percent (six to 23 months) (1), 43 percent (24 to 59 months) and 25 percent (five to eight years of age).
The study also found that vaccination and compliance rates were higher in practices that administered influenza vaccine for more months during the vaccination season (starting earlier and ending later).