The primary analysis in the study compared adult caregivers’ decisions to receive the flu shot themselves with their decisions to have their children immunized. The researchers noted that rates of child immunizations are likely overreported in Oregon, and, in contrast, adult immunizations may be underreported. In the secondary analysis, the group “compared adult influenza immunization in the 2014-2015 flu season with their children’s immunizations in a 4:3:1:3:3:1 series (4 diptheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis [DTaP], 3 polio, 1 measles-mumps-rubella, 3 hepatitis B, 3 Haemophilus influenza
type b, 1 varicella) for those age 4 to 10, to 3+DTaP among those aged 9 months to 3 years, and to adolescent meningococcal and human papillomavirus immunizations for those age 11 to 17.”
The study included 450,687 children, 36.5% of whom received a flu shot during the 2014-2015 flu season. Similarly, 17.2% of those children’s corresponding adult caregivers also received a flu shot that season. As children aged, the rate of flu shot vaccination diminished. The researchers reported that children at the youngest age tier (ages 9 months to 3 years) were most likely to have received both influenza vaccinations and non-influenza vaccinations according to schedule, while children ages 4 to 6 years were 2.56 times more likely than their counterparts to get a flu shot if their parent was also immunized. Patients 7 to 10 years of age were 3.08 times more likely to receive flu shots if their caregivers got them, and children ages 11 to 17 years were 3.23 times more likely to get immunized if their caregivers also did. In general, “adults were also more likely to be immunized before or on the same day as their children,” Dr. Robison wrote.
The team determined that parental changes in flu shot “behavior” are mirrored by their children, meaning that “when parents change from immunizing to non-immunizing, their children are almost twice as likely to miss an influenza immunization,” the group reported. “When parents improve their own behavior, their children are more than 5 times more likely to also receive an influenza immunization,” they added.
If more parents and caregivers start receiving flu shots themselves, then it is likely that child immunization rates will increase, for influenza and other preventable diseases, the researchers believe.
To stay informed on the latest in infectious disease news and developments, please sign up for our weekly newsletter.