Background: The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends influenza vaccinations for all children 6 months to 18 years of age, which includes school-aged children. Influenza immunization programs may benefit schools by reducing absenteeism.
Methods: A systematic literature review of PubMed, PsychLit, and Dissertation Abstracts available as of January 7, 2008, was conducted for school-located vaccinations, using search words "School Health Services" and "Immunization Programs"; limited to "Child" (6-12 years) and "Adolescent" (13-18 years) for PubMed and "mass or universal" and (immuniz(*) or immunis(*) or vaccin(*)) and (school or Child or Adolescen(*)) for PsychLit and Dissertation Abstracts. Fifty-nine studies met the criteria for review.
Results: Strategies such as incentives, education, the design of the consent form, and follow-up can increase parental consent and number of returned forms. Minimizing out-of-pocket cost, offering both the intramuscular (shot) and intranasal (nasal spray) vaccination, and using reminders can increase vaccination coverage among those whose parents consented. Finally, organization, communication, and planning can minimize the logistical challenges.
Conclusions: Schools-based vaccination programs are a promising option for achieving the expanded ACIP recommendation; school-located vaccination programs are feasible and effective. Adhering to lessons from the peer-reviewed scientific literature may help public health officials and schools implement the expanded recommendation to provide the greatest benefit for the lowest cost. Given the potential benefits of the expanded recommendation, both directly to the vaccinated children and indirectly to the community, prospective, well-controlled trials to establish the cost-effectiveness of specific vaccination strategies should be high priorities for future research.