Avoidable emergency department visits for rabies vaccination

Tomona Iso, Fangzheng Yuan, Elsie Rizk, Anh Thu Tran, R. Benjamin Saldana, Prasanth R. Boyareddigari, Ngoc anh A. Nguyen, Daniela Espino, Julia S. Benoit, Joshua T. Swan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Administering subsequent doses of rabies vaccine is not a medical emergency and does not require access to emergency department (ED) services. This study reviewed ED visits for rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) to identify avoidable ED visits for subsequent rabies vaccination. Methods: This retrospective study included patients who received human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) or rabies vaccine at 15 EDs of a multi-hospital health system from 2016 to 2018. All ED visits were classified as initial or non-initial healthcare visits after animal exposure. Emergency department visits for non-initial healthcare were classified as necessary (HRIG administration, worsening symptoms, other emergent conditions, or vaccination during a natural disaster) or avoidable (rabies vaccination only). Results: This study included 145 patients with 203 ED visits (113 initial and 90 non-initial healthcare visits). Avoidable ED visits were identified for 19% (28 of 145) of patients and 66% (59 of 90) of ED visits for non-initial healthcare. Contributing factors for avoidable ED visits were suboptimal ED discharge instructions to return to the ED for vaccination (n = 20 visits) and patients' inability to coordinate outpatient follow-up (n = 17 visits). Patients with previous avoidable ED visits had a 73% probability for unnecessarily returning to the ED for vaccination. The average number of avoidable ED visits observed per patient was 0.41 (95% CI = 0.25 to 0.56). Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 30,000 to 60,000 Americans initiates rabies PEP each year, we estimate that 7500 to 33,600 avoidable ED visits occur for rabies vaccination in the US each year. Conclusions: One of 5 patients who received rabies PEP in the ED had avoidable ED visits for subsequent rabies vaccination. This study highlights systemic lack of coordination following ED discharge and barriers to accessing rabies vaccine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)242-248
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Emergency department
  • Healthcare delivery
  • Healthcare resource utilization
  • Rabies postexposure prophylaxis
  • Rabies vaccine
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Humans
  • Vaccination
  • Rabies Vaccines
  • Animals
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rabies/prevention & control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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