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Elementary School-Based Influenza Vaccination: Evaluating Impact on Respiratory Illness Absenteeism and Laboratory-Confirmed Influenza
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    PLoS One
  • Description:

    Studies of influenza vaccine effectiveness in schools have assessed all-cause absenteeism rather than laboratory-confirmed influenza. We conducted an observational pilot study to identify absences due to respiratory illness and laboratory-confirmed influenza in schools with and without school-based vaccination.


    A local public health agency initiated school-based influenza vaccination in two Wisconsin elementary schools during October 2010 (exposed schools); two nearby schools served as a comparison group (non-exposed schools). Absences due to fever or cough illness were monitored for 12 weeks. During the 4 weeks of peak influenza activity, parents of absent children with fever/cough illness were contacted and offered influenza testing.


    Parental consent for sharing absenteeism data was obtained for 937 (57%) of 1,640 students. Fifty-two percent and 28%, respectively, of all students in exposed and non-exposed schools were vaccinated. Absences due to fever or cough illness were significantly lower in the exposed schools during seven of 12 surveillance weeks. Twenty-seven percent of students at exposed schools and 39% at unexposed schools had one or more days of absence due to fever/cough illness (p<0.0001). There was no significant difference in the proportion of students absent for other reasons (p = 0.23). During the 4 week period of influenza testing, respiratory samples were obtained for 68 (42%) of 163 episodes of absence due to fever or cough illness. Influenza was detected in 6 students; 3 attended exposed schools.


    Detection of laboratory-confirmed influenza in schools was challenging due to multiple consent requirements, difficulty obtaining samples from absent children, and a mild influenza season. School-based influenza vaccination was associated with reduced absenteeism due to fever or cough illness, but not absenteeism for other reasons. Although nonspecific, absence due to fever or cough illness may be a useful surrogate endpoint in school-based studies if identification of laboratory confirmed influenza is not feasible.

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