Flu vaccination rule for day care reduces hospitalization rate

A law requiring influenza vaccination for Connecticut children in licensed day care programs significantly increased vaccine coverage and reduced flu-related hospitalizations, according to a study published on Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In September 2010, Connecticut put a rule in place that all children between the age of six months and 59 months must receive at least one dose of flu vaccine annually to attend a licensed child-care program. Researchers from the Yale School of Public Health, the Connecticut Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that coverage grew and hospitalizations dropped after the rule was implemented.

In 2009-10, the season before Connecticut put the rule in place, vaccination coverage in the six month to 59 month age group was 67.8 percent. The coverage increased 16.3 percent by the 2012-13 flu season to 84.1 percent. Since the national flu immunization rate for that age group increased 11.9 percent during that time period, the difference was not deemed statistically significant.

In 2007-08, Connecticut's incidence of flu-related hospitalization in children in the age group was 58.6 per 100,000 children. In 2012-13, the incidence dropped to 51.5 per 100,000 children, a 12 percent decrease.

While the authors said the findings do not prove a causal relationship, they suggest the vaccination requirement may have reduced serious morbidity and increased vaccination rates in Connecticut.

New Jersey is the only other state that has a flu vaccination day care mandate. New York City adopted a similar rule in January.