Flu shot rates lag for adolescents at risk
Nov 12, 2008 - 2:36:30 PM

Washington, Nov 3 - The rates of flu vaccination for adolescents who suffer from asthma and other illnesses are still far too low, according to a recent study.

The research was led by Grace Lee at the department of ambulatory care and prevention at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. She is also the co-author of the study

'Influenza vaccination has been recommended for adolescents with high-risk conditions for well over a decade,' noted co-author Mari Nakamura, clinical fellow in paediatrics at Children's Hospital, Boston.

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, hospitalisations, and in some cases, even death, said a Harvard press release.

Because of this, the Centre 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.

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 eight 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.

The study team concludes both patients and providers need to be part of any intervention strategy aimed at increasing vaccination rates among this population.

These findings were published in November issue of Paediatrics.

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