Children's hospitals supports research on flu vaccines.
Getting into the new era of flu season, a recent study had reported that hospitalizing children for influenza might cost up to three or four times of the estimates that were accepted previously.
The researchers from Pediatric department of Philadelphia Children's Hospital say 'their findings have strengthened the economic justification for broadly vaccinating the children against flu'.
'We found the cost of influenza-related hospitalizations in children was
about $13,000 each--compared to most prior studies that estimated the cost
at three to four thousand dollars,' said study leader Ron Keren, M.D.,
M.P.H., a pediatrician at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. 'This
suggests that annual influenza vaccinations for children, especially for
those with certain high-risk conditions, may be more cost-effective than
The study appears in the November issue of Pediatrics.
The researchers analyzed billing data for 727 patients up to age 21 who were
admitted to Children's Hospital with laboratory-confirmed influenza over
four consecutive flu seasons, from 2000 to 2004. The study team
statistically adjusted the direct medical costs to account for geographic
variations in those costs.
'We found a broad range of hospital costs in the study, from approximately
$7,000 each for patients treated only on the ward, to nearly $40,000 each
for children cared for in the intensive care unit,' said Dr. Keren. Children
with low-risk conditions had hospital costs averaging $9,000 each, compared
to those with high-risk conditions, whose costs averaged $15,000 each.
The study team used risk categories defined by the American Committee on
Immunization Practices (ACIP), which has designated medically vulnerable
patients who should receive influenza vaccinations. For instance, high-risk
conditions include children with heart disease, chronic lung disease,
asthma, and disorders of hemoglobin such as sickle-cell disease.
Even in the group with the lowest hospital costs, low-risk patients
hospitalized exclusively on the ward, costs were higher than previously
estimated. For patients in that group, the hospital costs were $6,000 per
patient, double the figure reported in prior studies. 'We conclude that most
previous studies systematically underestimated true costs of influenza by
including children with diseases attributed to influenza, such as pneumonia
and bronchitis, which probably incur lower costs than actual influenza
cases,' said Dr. Keren. 'In contrast, we included only patients who had
influenza confirmed by laboratory testing.'
The highest-cost patients in the study were 18-to-21-year-olds and those who
had particular high-risk chronic conditions such as cardiac, metabolic, and
neurological and neuromuscular diseases. A 2005 study by Dr. Keren's group
identified children with neurological and neuromuscular diseases as being at
particularly high risk of respiratory failure caused by influenza. That
research reinforced last year's decision by the ACIP to add neurological and
neuromuscular diseases to the list of chronic conditions that warrant annual
The current study further buttresses the ACIP's public health
recommendations for general pediatric flu immunization. 'During the period we studied, the ACIP recommended that all children aged 6 months to two years receive an influenza vaccine,' said Dr. Keren. 'Since that time, the ACIP has extended the recommended age from age two to age five. Our findings support the ACIP's recommendations by strengthening the economic case for vaccinating children against influenza. This economic case is even more compelling for children with high-risk conditions.'