School-located influenza vaccination programs led by local health departments could be cost-effective throughout the state of Florida, according to a University of Florida study published recently in the journal Vaccine.
“Our research shows that these programs can be implemented throughout Florida in ways that are not only financially feasible, but will also lead to a decrease in influenza-related mortality among at-risk populations,” said Dr. Cuc Tran, who completed the analysis as part of her dissertation at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions’ department of environmental and global health.
Dr. Tran analyzed a school-located influenza vaccination program based in Alachua County. Approximately 42 percent of the county’s students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade participated in that program, which remained financially feasible while serving students both with and without private health insurance.
“One of the factors we took into account was the insurance profile of our student population,” said Mr. Paul Myers, administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County, which was one of the key players in the program. “About 60 percent of the students had private insurance and about 40 percent were eligible for Medicaid.”
During the 2013-2014 program, 13,815 doses of flu vaccine were administered to Alachua County students. Medicaid-eligible students were able to receive free flu vaccines through Florida’s Vaccines for Children program.
One major challenge for the school-located influenza vaccine program is the difference in reimbursement rates for the vaccine depending on who is administering it and who is paying for it. The health department receives just $5 from Medicaid for each dose it administers to school children through the Vaccines for Children program, while private health providers receive $10. The health department receives more than $22 per dose for those children covered by the two major private health insurance carriers in the area. Because of these differences, a school-located flu vaccine program must have enough privately insured students participating in order to cover the costs of vaccinating those students who are either on Medicaid or have no insurance.
“School-located vaccination programs are sustainable if they’re run through health departments, but you need to have a certain percentage of children who are privately insured,” said Dr. Kathleen Ryan, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases in the UF College of Medicine and a faculty member in the Emerging Pathogens Institute.