Reducing Antibiotic Use in Ambulatory Care Through Influenza Vaccination

Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Dec 31;71(11):e726-e734. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa464.


Background: Improving appropriate antibiotic use is crucial for combating antibiotic resistance and unnecessary adverse drug reactions. Acute respiratory illness (ARI) commonly causes outpatient visits and accounts for ~41% of antibiotics used in the United States. We examined the influence of influenza vaccination on reducing antibiotic prescriptions among outpatients with ARI.

Methods: We enrolled outpatients aged ≥6 months with ARI from 50-60 US clinics during 5 winters (2013-2018) and tested for influenza with RT-PCR; results were unavailable for clinical decision making and clinical influenza testing was infrequent. We collected antibiotic prescriptions and diagnosis codes for ARI syndromes. We calculated vaccine effectiveness (VE) by comparing vaccination odds among influenza-positive cases with test-negative controls. We estimated ARI visits and antibiotic prescriptions averted by influenza vaccination using estimates of VE, coverage, and prevalence of antibiotic prescriptions and influenza.

Results: Among 37 487 ARI outpatients, 9659 (26%) were influenza positive. Overall, 36% of ARI and 26% of influenza-positive patients were prescribed antibiotics. The top 3 prevalent ARI syndromes included: viral upper respiratory tract infection (47%), pharyngitis (18%), and allergy or asthma (11%). Among patients testing positive for influenza, 77% did not receive an ICD-CM diagnostic code for influenza. Overall, VE against influenza-associated ARI was 35% (95% CI, 32-39%). Vaccination prevented 5.6% of all ARI syndromes, ranging from 2.8% (sinusitis) to 11% (clinical influenza). Influenza vaccination averted 1 in 25 (3.8%; 95% CI, 3.6-4.1%) antibiotic prescriptions among ARI outpatients during influenza seasons.

Conclusions: Vaccination and accurate influenza diagnosis may curb unnecessary antibiotic use and reduce the global threat of antibiotic resistance.

Keywords: antibiotics; antimicrobial resistance; effectiveness; influenza; vaccines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines*
  • Influenza, Human* / drug therapy
  • Influenza, Human* / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human* / prevention & control
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vaccination


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Influenza Vaccines