-- Alan Mozes
MONDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- American youngsters are
much less likely to come down with the flu than their northern
neighbors due to a public health policy in the United States that
calls for vaccinating 2- to 4-year olds, according to a
Canadian-American research team.
The United States' influenza vaccination policy for preschoolers
was launched by the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization
Practices in 2006. To date, its Canadian equivalent -- the National
Advisory Committee on Immunization -- has not implemented a similar
The result: since the U.S. policy took effect, the percentage of
preschoolers who were rushed to an American emergency room to be
treated for the flu fell by 34 percent, relative to Canadian
"The differences in the U.S. and Canadian policies created conditions for a natural experiment for evaluating the effects of U.S. policy change in the target age group," study co-author John Brownstein, director of the Computational Epidemiology Group at Children's Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP) in Boston, explained in a news release.
Brownstein and colleagues at McGill University in Montreal
present their findings in the Sept. 19 issue of the
Canadian Medical Association Journal.
To reach their findings, the authors analyzed data covering
nearly 115,000 visits to the ER for influenza-like illness that
took place between 2000 and 2009 at two hospitals: one in Boston
and one in Montreal. Both cities are described as having similar
profiles regarding the onset of seasonal flu.
The researchers noted that this timeframe covered a period
during which U.S. and Canadian vaccine policies for preschoolers
were the same, as well as when they deviated from one another.
Once the new American vaccine policy for preschoolers came into
effect in 2006, the U.S. rates of admission to ER for flu-related
complications declined by 34 percent.
The team also noted there was an 11 percent and 18 percent lower
rate of visits for flu care among older children in the Boston
hospital, as compared with those in the Montreal facility.
The researchers theorized that although both countries had
similar vaccine policies for older children, it could be that
inoculating preschoolers ended up protecting other family members
from the viral spread. In addition, they said, the new U.S. policy
could have increased awareness about the need for flu vaccine.
The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health
Research, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
and the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
For more on children and the flu, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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