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Flu vaccination rates lag for at-risk adolescents
Date:11/2/2008

BOSTON, Mass. (Nov. 3, 2008) Influenza vaccination rates for adolescents who suffer from asthma and other illnesses are still far too low, according to a recent study.

The research, published in the November 2008 issue of Pediatrics, was based at the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

"Influenza vaccination has been recommended for adolescents with high-risk conditions for well over a decade," notes lead author Mari Nakamura, a clinical fellow in pediatrics at Children's Hospital Boston. "We wanted to examine how effective this risk-based policy has been in achieving vaccination coverage."

Each year, between 20 and 40 percent of children and adolescents come down with the flu. For children with certain high-risk conditions, this can lead to severe illness, hospitalizations, and in some cases, even death. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control strongly recommends that all adolescents vulnerable to influenza complications get vaccinated.

The study charted vaccination rates from 1992 to 2002 for 18,703 adolescents with asthma, cardiac disease, immune system disorders and other high-risk conditions who received care at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and were insured through Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. The investigators also identified medical visits for checkups and other preventive care that these adolescents had during flu seasons to determine whether there were missed opportunities for vaccination.

Vaccination rates improved during the study period, but only from 8 percent to 15 percent. During the last four years of the study period, 1999 to 2002, only 11 percent of adolescents with high-risk conditions received vaccinations during all four seasons. Over 56 percent of adolescents received no flu vaccinations during this four-year period.

Missed opportunities were common as approximately 45 to 55 percent of high-r
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Contact: David Cameron
david_cameron@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0441
Harvard Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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