October 12, 2007

VUSM student examines flu vaccine reporting rates

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Ricky Shinall

VUSM student examines flu vaccine reporting rates

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine student Ricky Shinall is first author on a study published this month in Pediatrics focusing on the reporting of flu vaccines in children ages 6 months to 4 years.

Since children can get flu shots at numerous locations other than their pediatrician's office, the pediatrician cannot rely solely on his or her records to know whether or not a child has received a flu shot.

The study examined how reliable parental reports are when it comes to flu vaccination.

Shinall, a third-year medical student, and his colleagues, Erin Plosa, M.D., a resident in the Department of Pediatrics, and Wake Forest University Medical Center's Katherine Poehling, M.D., M.P.H., surveyed parents of children who came to the pediatric residents' clinic at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

They asked the parents questions to determine whether their children had received a flu shot for that year, then compared answers to the clinic's medical records.

“We found out that parents were, in general, very accurate about knowing whether or not their child had received that year's flu shot,” Shinall said.

“We concluded that pediatricians can feel pretty confident that what the parent is telling them is correct, and they can therefore rely on the parent's report to decide whether the child needs the flu shot or if they've already received it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual vaccination against influenza for all children age 6 months to 4 years. If parents fail to report accurate information about their children's vaccination, the children are at risk for not getting vaccinated, leaving them vulnerable to contracting the flu, or at risk for getting a duplicate vaccination, which unnecessarily depletes the stock of vaccines.

“It's very exciting to get published in a national journal,” Shinall said.

“I was really lucky to be able to collaborate with Drs. Poehling and Plosa on this article. I really benefited from their expertise and hard work, and I think they deserve the credit for coming up with the study and getting it done.”