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Preschools Mandating Flu Shots in Some States

Update Date: Oct 07, 2014 09:29 AM EDT

In an effort to increase vaccination rates and prevent the spread of the flu, preschools in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut will mandate flu shots for children attending licensed day-care centers and preschools. Rhode Island is set to enforce similar policies next year.

"School entry requirements have proven to be the best way to vaccinate children," said Alexandra Stewart, an associate professor at Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, reported by FOX News. "It's a good way to catch people."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends anyone over the age of six-months to get the flu vaccine. Groups that are particularly vulnerable to the flu are young children, pregnant women and older adults. However, even though the vaccine is the best form of protection available for the flu, not enough people are getting vaccinated.

"In congregate settings like day care, kids get exposed to each other and diseases go around much faster and the children bring them to their parents and that helps feed the whole community," lead author of the study, James Hadler, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the Yale School of Public Health, said reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The move to require flu shots could help boost vaccination rates. Last year, the vaccination rate for adults was 42 percent. In children between the ages of six-months and four-years-old, the rate was higher at 70 percent. However, in children ages five to 18, the rate dipped to 55 percent.

According to a study done at Yale School of Public Health in Connecticut, researchers found that enforcing a flu vaccine mandate helped boost the immunization rates for children from 67.8 percent to 84.1 percent during the 2012-2013 school year. During the same school year, the rate of hospitalizations tied to the flu also fell to 51.1 cases per 100,000 day-care aged children. This rate represented a 12 percent reduction from the rate calculated five years earlier.

This is not the first time a facility or center decided to mandate flu shots. Several medical facilities throughout the country require health-care workers to get the vaccine. Exceptions are only granted to employees with medical, religious or sometimes, "personal," reasons.

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