April 01, 2016
2 min read

School based influenza vaccination clinics reduce absenteeism

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School-based clinics providing influenza vaccinations to school-aged children reduced the rate of influenza-related absenteeism from schools in Arkansas, according to recent study findings.

“School-aged children are an important target for influenza prevention as children experience high rates of influenza infection, and due to insufficient hygienic practices, are likely to amplify disease transmission in communal settings, such as schools,” Rachel E. Gicquelais, MPH, of the CDC and Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and colleagues wrote in the Journal of School Health. “Therefore, the CDC recommends that authorities consider providing influenza vaccine in schools.”

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) organized school-based clinics (SBCs) throughout the state’s public schools. Four hundred twenty-two schools met the inclusion criteria, which accounted for slightly more than half of all SBCs conducted. The ADH dispensed 77,239 doses of influenza vaccination at these clinics from October 2012 to January 2013, with more than 58% being primary schools (kindergarten through seventh grade).

Records comprising the location of the SBCs, clinic dates and the number of vaccinations administered were documented. Data on all-cause school absenteeism for participating schools then were collected by the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) from Jan. 7 to March 1, 2013, which represented the 2012-2013 influenza season.

Using linear regression models, the researchers calculated the relationship between the percent of children vaccinated at an SBC and the average daily percentage of students absent during the peak week of influenza activity, Jan. 21-25, 2013. The average absenteeism ranged from 0.6% to 15.4% of students absent per day. In univariate analysis, Gicquelais and colleagues determined that with each 1% increase in student vaccination coverage, there was a decline of 0.031% in absenteeism (P < .0001). When adjusted for school enrollment, the models showed that a 0.027% reduction in absenteeism was linked with every 1% greater vaccination level (P = .0001).

The researchers found that a higher percentage of daily absenteeism occurred in larger schools — a 0.13% rise in absenteeism was linked with each additional 100 students enrolled.

Extrapolation of the model predicted that during a 12-week influenza season, a 10% increase in vaccination was associated with a reduction of 16 to 163 student absentee days per school based on enrollments.

Although the researchers wrote that greater influenza vaccination coverage was associated with reduced student absenteeism, they acknowledged their study’s limitations. These included the exclusion of 387 public schools, all Arkansas private schools, the weeks of high flu morbidity due to school-scheduled holiday breaks and students vaccinated outside of ADH-facilitated clinics.

“Influenza vaccination is an effective tool to reduce school absenteeism, which may facilitate scholastic achievement and minimize school district costs relating to student and staff absenteeism,” Gicquelais and colleagues concluded. “School-based clinics are a proven and feasible way to target influenza vaccinations to school-aged children.” – by Alaina Tedesco

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.