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

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
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
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
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
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

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 In Their Own Words These Students Found Mental Health Support in After-School Programs. See How
3 students discuss how after-school programs benefit their well-being.
6 min read
Vector illustration of a woman sitting indian style with her arms spread wide and a rainbow above her head.
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Cellphone Headaches in Middle Schools: Why Policies Aren't Enough
Middle schoolers' developmental stage makes them uniquely vulnerable to the negative aspects of cellphones. Policies alone won't help.
6 min read
A student holds a cell phone during class at Bel Air High School in Bel Air, Md., on Jan. 25, 2024.
A student holds a cellphone during class at Bel Air High School in Bel Air, Md., on Jan. 25, 2024.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
Student Well-Being Teachers Want Parents to Step Up to Curb Cellphone Misuse. Are They Ready?
A program from the National PTA aims to partner with schools to give parents resources on teaching their children healthy tech habits.
5 min read
Elementary students standing in line against a brick wall using cellphones and not interacting.
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Schools Feel Less Equipped to Meet Students' Mental Health Needs Than a Few Years Ago
Less than half of public schools report that they can effectively meet students’ mental health needs.
4 min read
Image of a student with their head down on their arms, at a desk.
Olga Beliaeva/iStock/Getty