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Severity of Flu Season, Shot Effectiveness Don't Change Vaccination Rates

November 14, 2019

By Anne Harding

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Influenza-season severity and vaccine effectiveness (VE) do not appear to affect flu-vaccination rates in children, according to new research.

Dr. Melissa S. Stockwell of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City and her colleagues also found a decline in rates of flu vaccination in recent years among children of all ages in their study, online November 11 in JAMA Pediatrics.

"Influenza can be a serious and at times deadly infection. Vaccination is the best way that we can protect ourselves and our families from influenza," Dr. Stockwell told Reuters Health by email. "There are a number of factors that may influence a family's decision to vaccinate. It is important that we strongly recommend influenza vaccine to all our patients 6 months and over, and be ready to answer any questions that parents may have."

Dr. Stockwell and her team reviewed data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the 2010-2017 flu season to investigate whether current or prior flu season severity or VE were associated with influenza-vaccination rates.

While vaccination rates had been increasing in children of all ages and rose from 2010-2011 to 2012-2013, the researchers found, they leveled off and subsequently declined. There was no association between prior or current flu-season severity or VE and vaccination rates.

Vaccine effectiveness ranged from a low of 19% in 2014-2015 up to 60%, and the researchers found a "slight decline" in vaccination rates after the 2014-2015 season.

The CDC tracks VE by gathering data from collaborators who compare rates of influenza infection in people who were and were not immunized, Dr. Stockwell noted.

"The general public may not be aware of the exact numbers, but usually as the information becomes available people hear about the vaccine being a 'good match' this year, usually meaning effectiveness should be higher, or a 'bad match,'" she said.

She added, "Anecdotally, we as clinicians often think that the severity of influenza or reports of vaccine effectiveness will affect vaccine-seeking behaviors and in this study that was not the case. Based on other research from our group, we do know, however, that providing educational information to families does increase receipt of the influenza vaccine."


JAMA Pediatrics 2019.

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