A cheap and simple pamphlet about the flu handed to parents can increase the number of children who get the flu vaccine, according to a randomized, controlled clinical trial from researchers at Columbia University. This study is one of the first to examine the effect of educational information on influenza vaccination rates in children.1
In a survey through the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 33% of parents strongly agree that vaccinations are necessary and safe.2 However, according to the report, influenza affects approximately 8% of children annually.
In young children, especially those under 2 years of age, the flu is more likely to cause pneumonia and severe inflammatory responses resulting in hospitalization or death. Therefore, there is a need to educate vaccine-hesitant parents on the importance of vaccination.
The study included 400 parent-and-child pairs at pediatric clinics in northern Manhattan. The parents were asked to assess their attitudes toward the flu shot and their intent to vaccinate through a brief survey.
One-third received a 1-page handout with local information on the flu, another third received a 1-page handout with national information on the flu, and the rest did not receive a handout. Both handouts emphasized the risk of getting the flu, the seriousness of the disease, and the efficacy of the vaccine. Providers were unaware of the parent's study participation.
The researchers found that nearly 72% of children whose parents were given either of the fact sheets were vaccinated before the end of the season compared with approximately 65% of those who got usual care. Parents who received the national handout were more likely to have their child vaccinated on the day of the clinic visit (59%) compared with those who didn't receive either handout (53%).
Parents who had fewer concerns about vaccination were more likely to vaccinate their children by the end of the season (74% versus 59% of parents with significant concerns) and on the day of the clinic visit (59% and 45%, respectively). Approximately 90% of parents who said they planned to vaccinate their children did so by the end of the flu season.
The study authors noted that the low-cost handout can be easily implemented and has a meaningful impact on influenza vaccination in children. The handout is available in the paper.