Dr. Wissam Al Khoury, graduate assistant in the department of Health Promotion & Disease Prevention at Florida International University’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, recently presented results of his study “Demographic Differences in Flu Vaccination among Florida’s High School Students: Evidence from 2017 Florida Youth Risk Behavior Survey” at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conference in Atlanta.
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion set the Healthy People 2020 goal of 70 percent flu vaccination coverage for children aged 6 months -17 years old. Yet, Dr. Al Khoury found that of the 6,171 Florida high school students who responded to a Florida Department of Health survey, 44.5 percent did not receive flu vaccinations in the prior 12 months.
“The numbers prove that not enough students are being vaccinated,” said Dr. Al Khoury. “Much more effort should be made to educate the population of the importance of getting the flu vaccine.”
Among the findings, female (53.3 percent), whites (46.8 percent), and heterosexuals reported higher rates of flu vaccination than blacks (26.8 percent), Hispanics (20.8 percent), or students identifying as gay, lesbian & or bisexual (54 percent). Students 16 years and older reported lower rates of vaccination than younger students.
“This study shows how health disparities are responsible for significant differences in immunization rates and it highlights the concerns that some students and their parents have about getting the flu-shot,” continued Dr. Al Khoury. “The Florida Department of Health should be alarmed by these numbers. More work needs to be done to increase awareness of the nasal spray vaccinations to populations who are worried about the side effects of the flu-shot.”
The primary location where students received the flu vaccine was at the doctor’s office (30.6 percent) with lower numbers indicating vaccinations were received from the health department (2.4 percent) as well as at pharmacies (2.6 percent) and schools (2.6 percent).
During the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC reported 172 pediatric flu-related deaths nationwide. Approximately 80% of these deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination that season.