Universal influenza vaccination may reduce antibiotic use

August 20, 2009

We all know that influenza vaccination helps prevent disease, but a new study from Canada suggests it may also prevent another public health problem: inappropriate antibiotic use. The findings come from a new study in the September 1, 2009 issue of Clinical Infectious Disease, which is now available online.

Starting in 2000, the Canadian province of Ontario introduced a universal immunization program offering free influenza vaccines to anyone 6 months of age or older. Other provinces continued to target only high-risk groups and their contacts for vaccination. The authors compared prescription rates for influenza-associated respiratory before and after the Ontario program began, and compared the Ontario prescription rates with those of other provinces.

The broader immunization effort in Ontario was associated with a 64 percent decline in these antibiotic prescriptions compared with the other provinces that maintained targeted vaccination programs. Additionally, influenza-associated mortality fell 39 percent. Flu-related hospitalizations, emergency department use, and doctors' office visits also fell an average of 52 percent.

Influenza and upper respiratory conditions account for a substantial number of antibiotic prescriptions, even though antibiotics don't work against viruses such as the flu. The overuse of antibiotics and the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria continue to be serious public health problems. According to study author Fawziah Marra, PharmD, of the University of British Columbia, the study's findings suggest that "jurisdictions wishing to decrease antibiotic use might consider programs to increase ."

Source: Society of America (news : web)

Explore further: Flu vaccine not associated with reduced hospitalizations or outpatient visits among young children

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not rated yet Aug 20, 2009
That's ... surprising. I wouldn't have thought that the effect would be so dramatic. And this isn't even *mandatory* vaccination, it's just free if you want it. And current flu vaccines are only 60-70% effective.

So imagine if they gave that vaccine to everyone, instead of just *offering* it to everyone. I wonder how large the effect would be then? (To say nothing of the effect of a better flu vaccine, like the universal-strain flu vaccine that is currently under development. One shot, and you're immune for life). Who knew that doctors were stupid enough to give antibiotics for the flu, even if the person doesn't appear to be developing secondary complications (which could (*could*) warrant the use of antibiotics).
not rated yet Aug 22, 2009
You would hope that doctors aren't prescribing antibiotics to address flu like symptoms. If so, get a new doctor. Flu like symptoms are either to slight for antibiotic prescription to be justified or too severe to be passed off as the common cold.

This speaks more to the over prescription of antibiotics due to "comfort" rather than need, and is greatly detrimental to society's health on the whole.

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