2006/2007 U.S. Flu Vaccination Policy Lowers Morbidity

Expansion of vaccination policy to include healthy children cuts influenza morbidity by 34 percent

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The 2006/2007 influenza vaccination policy change in the United States to include healthy children aged 24 to 59 months has reduced influenza morbidity in the United States, as evident by reduction in the emergency department visits in the United States versus Canada, according to a study published in the Sept. 20 issue of the CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

Anne Gatewood Hoen, Ph.D., from the Children's Hospital Boston, and colleagues investigated the effect of the 2006/2007 U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' expansion of recommendations for seasonal influenza vaccination to include healthy children aged 24 to 59 months. The relative change in emergency department visits related to influenza-like illness from 2000/2001 through 2008/2009 at a hospital in the United States was compared with that of a hospital in Canada, where these recommendations were not enforced. Adjustments were made for virologic factors, seasonal trends, and all-cause utilization of the emergency departments.

The investigators found that 114,657 emergency department visits in the two hospitals were associated with influenza-like illnesses. Relative to the Canadian hospital, the rates of influenza-like illness among children aged 2 to 4 years declined by 34 percent in the U.S. hospital after implementation of the 2006/2007 policy change (rate ratio, 0.66). Modest declines of 11 to 18 percent were observed for other age groups.

"Recent expansion of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations on seasonal influenza vaccination is likely to result in additional reductions in influenza morbidity in the United States," the authors write.

One of the study authors disclosed financial relationships with Novartis and Merck Frosst.

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