Background: It is estimated that vaccinating 50-70% of school-aged children for influenza can produce population-wide indirect effects. We evaluated a city-wide, school-located influenza vaccination (SLIV) intervention that aimed to increase influenza vaccination coverage. The intervention was implemented in over 95 pre-schools and elementary schools in northern California from 2014 to 2018. Using a matched prospective cohort design, we estimated intervention impacts on student influenza vaccination coverage, school absenteeism, and community-wide indirect effects on laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalizations.
Methods and Findings: We used a multivariate matching algorithm to identify a nearby comparison school district with similar pre-intervention characteristics and matched schools in each district. To measure student influenza vaccination, we conducted cross-sectional surveys of student caregivers in 22 school pairs (2016 survey N = 6,070; 2017 survey N = 6,507). We estimated the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalization from 2011-2018 using surveillance data from school district zip codes. We analyzed student absenteeism data from 2011-2018 from each district (N = 42,487,816 student-days). To account for pre-intervention differences between districts, we estimated difference-in-differences (DID) in influenza hospitalization incidence and absenteeism rates using generalized linear and log-linear models with a population offset for incidence outcomes. The number of students vaccinated by the SLIV intervention ranged from 7,502 to 10,106 (22-28% of eligible students) each year. During the intervention, influenza vaccination coverage among elementary students was 53-66% in the comparison district. Coverage was similar between the intervention and comparison districts in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and was significantly higher in the intervention site in 2016-17 (7% 95% CI 4, 11) and 2017-18 (11% 95% CI 7, 15). During seasons when vaccination coverage was higher among intervention schools and the vaccine was moderately effective, there was evidence of statistically significant indirect effects: adjusting for pre-intervention differences between districts, the reduction in influenza hospitalizations in the intervention site was 76 (95% CI 20, 133) in 2016-17 and 165 (95% CI 86, 243) in 2017-18 among non-elementary school aged individuals and 327 (5, 659) in 2016-17 and 715 (236, 1195) in 2017-18 among adults 65 years or older. The reduction in illness-related school absences during influenza season was 3,538 (95% CI 709, 6,366) in 2016-17 and 8,249 (95% CI 3,213, 13,285) in 2017-18.
Limitations of this study include the use of an observational design, which may be subject to unmeasured confounding, and caregiver-reported vaccination status, which is subject to poor recall and low response rates.
Conclusion: A city-wide SLIV intervention in a large, diverse urban population decreased the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalization in all age groups and decreased illness-specific school absence rates among students during seasons when the vaccine was moderately effective, suggesting that the intervention produced indirect effects. Our findings suggest that in populations with moderately high background levels of influenza vaccination coverage, SLIV programs can further increase coverage and reduce influenza across communities.