Making Flu Shots Mandatory Helps Keep More Kids Out Of The Hospital

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According to the fairly obvious results from a new study, requiring kids to get a mandatory flu shot before entering preschool or daycare helps decrease their flu-related hospitalizations. After Connecticut enacted this type of law, the rate of children landing in the hospital because of influenza declined by 12 percent.

Connecticut’s state law, which took effect in 2010, caused childhood flu vaccinations to jump from 68 percent to 84 percent. “That difference, we feel, has resulted in children attending daycare being better protected against influenza and its severe complications,” Dr. James Hadler, the lead researcher and a clinical professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, explained.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone older than six months should get a flu shot every year. But the only other areas in the country that make kids’ flu shots mandatory are New Jersey and New York City. Although the flu shot isn’t typically included, all states do currently require children above age five to receive some kind of series of vaccinations before attending a public school or state-licensed day care facility.

However, that doesn’t mean every kid has actually gotten their shots. Nineteen states have weaker policies that allow parents to claim a broad “philosophical” exemption to vaccines, so more than six percent of kindergartners in some states hadn’t received their recommended vaccinations last year. Some legislatures have attempted to make this situation worse. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 36 different bills were introduced between 2009 and 2012 to change school immunization requirements, the majority of which would have made it easier for parents to get their kids out of their shots.

Childhood vaccine exemptions have a direct relationship to infectious disease outbreaks. Federal health officials have repeatedly warned Americans that pockets of unvaccinated individuals are allowing deadly diseases, like measles and whooping cough, to make a resurgence.

Although it’s much more common, the flu can be dangerous, too. This year’s season is actually taking an outsized toll on younger and middle-aged Americans, since so many of them neglect to get the vaccine. The influenza strain commonly known as “swine flu” is killing young and healthy people who typically don’t think they need to worry about this illness. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been urging all Americans to get their shots.