College students who receive an influenza vaccination may be less likely to develop flu-like illnesses, require related health care visits, or experience impairments in academic performance during flu season.

A new study published in the December issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine included 12,975 students on 2 campuses over 4 separate flu seasons between 2002 and 2006. One flu vaccination was associated with a reduction of 1half-day of illnesses when averaged over all of the flu seasons. For every 17 students vaccinated, one day of missed class was prevented. Additionally, 11 vaccinations prevented one day of missed work and 6 vaccinations prevented one day spent in bed.

"Vaccination was also associated with significant reductions in influenza-like illness–associated provider visits, antibiotic use, impaired school performance and numbers of days of missed class, missed work and illness during the influenza seasons," write the authors.

Overall, 30.2 % of the students were vaccinated, and 24.1 % experienced at least one flu-like illness during flu season. Students who were vaccinated were significantly less likely to develop such an illness than those who were not vaccinated.

"Our findings highlight the kinds of benefits that could accrue to the nearly 18 million college and university students in this country if they were vaccinated," write the authors.