Student Well-Being

Flu Vaccinations Among Children Are Down. That Could Spell Trouble for Schools

By Arianna Prothero — November 19, 2021 2 min read
An employee with the Hidalgo County Health Department holds out a roll of flu vaccine stickers that are used to verify who has been temperature screened Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2020, at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic on the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show grounds in Mercedes, TX.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The number of children getting flu shots is down from this same time last year, and that could have a big impact on schools that are still struggling from the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thirty-four percent of children ages 6 months through 17 years had been vaccinated against the flu by the end of the first week of November, compared to 40 percent at this same time last year, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But while the flu was relatively mild last year, likely because of large-scale mask-wearing, social distancing, and remote work and school, this year many of those same COVID-19 mitigation efforts are not in place, or at least not to the same extent, as they were.

A convergence of COVID-19 infections and flu infections—also being referred to as a “twindemic”—could exacerbate issues that are already bedeviling schools: staff shortages and student absences.

Flu vaccines are crucial to keeping students on track academically this year, said Donna Mazyck, the executive director of the National Association of School Nurses.

“We have seen with flu vaccination that there is less absenteeism in schools, and this year more than any other we don’t want to interrupt student learning time,” she said.

“The fact that flu vaccination uptake is less, we have to be clear that this is still an issue that can cause, in some cases, 10 percent of absences in the school building.”

Digital generated image of many syringes with vaccine making a decline diagram.
Andriy Onufriyenko/Moment/Getty + Gina Tomko/Education Week

This issue isn’t limited to the flu vaccine. K-12 students are behind on all routine vaccinations compared to before the pandemic, said Mazyck. Children and adolescents fell behind on routine vaccinations as they skipped out on regular doctor’s visits and schools relaxed enforcement of vaccine requirements.

How schools can improve flu vaccine uptake

While flu vaccinations among children and adolescents are down 6 percentage points this year, the gap is even larger among white and Black children.

The reasons flu vaccinations are down for all children this year compared to the previous two are layered and complex, said Mayzck.

“Right now, we’re talking vaccine, vaccine, vaccine around the COVID-19 vaccine, and that can cause a measure of fatigue or even confusion,” she said.

The job for schools, said Mayzck, is to step up the messaging around how important flu vaccinations are.
Schools can also host vaccination clinics in partnership with local health providers to make it easier for families to access the vaccine.

The flu vaccine can be administered at the same time as other childhood immunizations, as well as the COVID-19 vaccine.

Related Tags:

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Student Achievement Webinar Examining the Evidence: What We’re Learning From the Field About Implementing High-Dosage Tutoring Programs
Tutoring programs have become a leading strategy to address COVID-19 learning loss. What evidence-based principles can district and school leaders draw on to design, implement, measure, and improve high-quality tutoring programs? And what are districts

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Calif. Parents Who Knowingly Sent Child to School With COVID Could Face Penalty
The parents knowingly sent their COVID-19 positive child and a sibling to school, causing a coronavirus outbreak, officials said.
3 min read
Students walk past a social distancing reminder sign while heading to the nurse's office to be tested for COVID-19, during summer school at the E.N. White School in Holyoke, Mass., on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021.
Students walk past a social distancing reminder sign while heading to the nurse's office to be tested for COVID-19 during summer school at the E.N. White School in Holyoke, Mass., on Aug. 4, 2021.
Charles Krupa/AP
Student Well-Being Omicron or No, Schools Should Prepare for a Pandemic Winter
Here are answers to questions about the new strain, which is considered potentially more infectious than Delta.
4 min read
Leader holding telescope and looking ahead while on top of ladder leaning on a large virus pathogen
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being Opinion Want Students to 'Build a Better World?' Try Culturally Responsive Social-Emotional Learning
The practice includes expanding students’ networks and developing their awareness of what it feels, looks, and sounds like to manage emotions.
19 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion Social-Emotional Learning and the Perils of Teaching as Therapy
SEL risks overburdening teachers with responsibilities they aren’t trained for, compromising their ability to build academic skills.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty