“When we looked at the immunization status of children in New York City, we found that one of the vaccines most commonly missed was influenza vaccine, especially from 2011 through 2014,” one of the study authors, Anmol Goyal, MD, of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y., said in an interview at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting.
“Given this year’s epidemic of influenza and the increasing deaths, we decided to look back on interventions we had done in the past to see if any can be reimplemented to help improve the vaccination status for these children,” he said. “The national goal is 80%, but if we look at the recent trend, even though we have been able to improve vaccination status, it is still below the national goal.” For example, he said, according to New York Department of Health data, the 2012-2013 influenza vaccination rates in New York City were 65% among children 6 months to 5 years old, 47% among those 5-8 years old, and 31% among those 9-18 years old, which were well below the national goal.
In an effort to improve influenza vaccine access, lead author, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the medical center, and his associates, implemented a simple vaccine screening tool to use in the inpatient setting as an opportunity to improve vaccination rates among children in New York City. It consisted of nursing staff assessing the patient’s influenza immunization status on admission and conducting source verification using the citywide immunization registry, or with vaccine cards brought by parents or guardians during admission. Influenza vaccine was administered as a standing order before discharge, unless refused by the parents or guardians. The study population comprised 602 patients between the ages of 6 months and 21 years who were admitted to the inpatient unit during 2 months of the influenza season (November and December) from 2011 to 2013.
Dr. Goyal, a second-year pediatric resident at the medical center, reported that the influenza vaccination status on admission was positive in only 31% of children in 2011, 30% in 2012, and 34% in 2013. The vaccine screening tool was implemented in 64% of admitted children in 2012 and 70% in 2013. Following implementation, the researchers observed a 5% increase in immunization rates in 2012 and an 11% increase in 2013, with an overall increase of 8% over 2 years (P less than .001). He was quick to point out that the influenza rate could have been improved by an additional 22% had 77% of patients not refused vaccination.
“Unfortunately, as our primary objective was to assess the utility of our screening tool in improving inpatient immunization status, we had very limited data points toward refusal of vaccine,” Dr. Goyal said. “Some of the reasons for refusal that were gathered during screening included preferred vaccination by their primary care provider after discharge. Or, maybe they don’t want the vaccine because they feel that the vaccine will make their kids sick. We don’t have enough data to point to any particular reason. This study provides information on acceptance rate of inpatient immunization, which may be useful for implementing additional educational initiatives to overcome potential barriers and help us reach our national goal.”
The researchers reported having no financial disclosures.