Washington, DC – With influenza (flu) vaccines in short supply and public health officials making plans to allocate available vaccines to priority populations, the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools posted a survey on its Web site to assess current flu vaccine policies and practices across the nation as they affect school-based health professionals.1 The following paragraphs summarize the results of this survey.

During a four-week period, 860 individuals responded to the survey. Sixty-one percent of the respondents are school-based health professionals such as school nurses and nurse practitioners. The remaining 39 percent are program managers and policy makers such as school district officials, school board members, and officials from local and state health departments.

Table 1. Survey Respondents

Health care providers
61%
Program managers/policy makers
39%
School nurses 54% School district officials 15%
Nurse practitioners 3% State health department officials 5%
Physicians 1% Local health department officials 5%
Other providers 3% School board members 3%
State educational officials 2%
Other program and policy makers 9%

Geographic distribution of survey respondents
At least one person from nearly every state and the District of Columbia filled out the survey. The two states not represented in this survey are Hawaii and Mississippi. Fourteen percent (n=119) of the respondents are from Texas, followed by New Hampshire with 8 percent (n=66), and Indiana with 7 percent (n=63).

Who has received a flu shot?
The survey asked school-based health professionals whether they have received a flu shot for the 2004/2005 flu season. Of those who responded to this question (n=508), 24 percent (n=124) said they had received a flu shot. Of the school nurses, 23 percent reported having had received a flu shot.

The survey also asked school-based health professionals if their employer had told them that they would receive a flu shot this year. Of the 299 respondents, 7 percent (n=21) had been told they would receive a flu shot compared to 93 percent (278) who had not been told that they would receive a flu shot. The survey also found that 10 percent (n=51) of school-based health professionals (n=521) said their employer was discussing scheduling flu shots.

Are school nurses and other school-based health professionals considered a priority group to receive the vaccine?
The survey asked if school nurses and other school-based health center professionals are considered a priority group to receive the flu vaccine. Of those who responded to this question (n=661), 27 percent (n=177) said that school nurses are included in the priority health care provider group to receive the vaccine in their state, community, or school district. Twenty – one percent (n=117) said that school-based health center staff are included in the priority health care provider group to receive the vaccine.2 The table below notes how selected states responded to this topic.

Table 2. Priority Groups by Selected States

State
School nurses are included in the priority health care provider group

School-based health center staff are included in priority health care provider group

Yes
No
Yes No
Colorado (n=59) 37%
63%
27% 73%
Indiana
(n=63)
40%
60%
22% 78%
Texas (n=119) 34%
66%
20% 80%

School-based health professionals received guidance on responding to various constituencies about the flu season
The survey asked whether school-based health professionals had received guidance on how to respond to questions from the public related to the flu season. These questions include where to get a flu shot, what information to provide parents with, and how to control infections at school. Over half of the respondents were given guidance on these questions with the most guidance (80%) given on how to control infections at school. Below is a summary of the responses for the questions.

Table 3. Questions Regarding the Flu Season

Question
Percent/number of respondents3
Advice on controlling infections at schools
80% (n=553)
Information for parents 64% (n=435)
Where to refer eligible persons to obtain flu shots 60% (n=406)

The survey also found that over half (51%, n=342) of school-based health professionals have received information on how to report suspected cases of flu to public health authorities.4

REFERENCES:
1When the survey was posted to www.healthinschools.org, the Webmaster informed potentially interested audiences of the survey via 10 listservs whose members are involved in various aspects of health issues at school. The survey was also reported in several e-newsletters and sent out to state nurse consultants in all 50 states.
2The number of respondents who answered this question is 560.
3Total number of respondents: advice on controlling infections at school – 693; information for parents – 684; where to refer eligible persons to obtain flu shots – 682.
4The number of respondents who answered this question is 676.

Acknowledgment
The Center would like to thank those who participated in filling out this survey. We encourage others who have not filled out the survey to do so.