Kids' Flu Shot Saves Adults $$$

Vaccinating all schoolchildren against the flu would save hundreds of millions of dollars annually, mainly in lost work time of parents who stay home with sick youngsters and who end up catching the virus themselves, researchers reported Monday.

Vaccination costs between $4 to $35 per child, according to an analysis released Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The savings depend on whether the child is taken to a doctor during work hours by a parent or gets immunized in a group setting, such as at school.

"Although children are at low risk for complications of influenza, ... infection rates are much higher in children than in adults," noted researchers led by Terry White of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond.

"Moreover children are efficient spreaders of the disease and a major factor in the introduction of influenza into households," the researchers added, citing previous research.

The researchers used existing data on infection rates, wages of caretakers and costs of immunization to make their estimates. If the estimates were applied to Census Bureau figures, which predict about 51.8 million school-age children in 2000, the total savings could range from $207.2 million to $1.8 billion.

Although serious complications from flu vaccine have occasionally occurred in adults, none has been reported in children, the researchers said.