Vaccine Facts You Aren’t Told

Vaccine Facts You Aren’t Told

Now that we’ve had more than a decade of scientifically-based national guidelines and policy about companion animal vaccines, why are certain veterinarians still reluctant to embrace this knowledge? The national policies of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and the American Academy of Feline Physicians (AAFP) are based on scientific facts and challenge the study data reported on by the media. So the question becomes, do vaccine industry representatives inform veterinarians about the duration of immunity and true regional and local needs for some types of vaccines? Or are they just focusing on meeting their quota and making money?

Since August is National Immunization Awareness Month, we're welcoming W. Jean Dodds, DVM to our blog to share some crucial information that all pet owners should know about vaccinations.

Now that we’ve had more than a decade of scientifically-based national guidelines and policy about companion animal vaccines, why are certain veterinarians still reluctant to embrace this knowledge? The national policies of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and the American Academy of Feline Physicians (AAFP) are based on scientific facts and challenge the study data reported on by the media. So the question becomes, do vaccine industry representatives inform veterinarians about the duration of immunity and true regional and local needs for some types of vaccines? Or are they just focusing on meeting their quota and making money?

Current Vaccine Guidelines Encourage a System that:

  • Fails to offer options (titers) to clients.
  • Does not address pet owner awareness and concerns.
  • Puts public trust of veterinarians in jeopardy.
  • Does not counter the perceived conflict of interest (monetary versus options).
  • Fails to recognize or denies adverse events.
  • Needs a science-based legal standard for rabies vaccination.
  • Is at odds with medical goals in the face of present knowledge, and breaches the principle to “do no harm.”

More on Serologic Vaccine Titer Testing

Serum titers for some disease agents must reach a certain level to indicate immunity, but for those that produce so-called sterile immunity (i.e., canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, canine adenovirus-2 virus, and feline panleukopenia virus), the presence of any measurable antibody means protection.

What does more than a decade of experience with vaccine titer testing reveal? Published studies in refereed journals show that 90-98 percent of dogs and cats that have been properly vaccinated develop good measurable antibody titers to the infectious agent measured. In general, serum antibody titers to the “core” vaccines, along with any natural exposures, last a minimum of seven to nine years and are likely present for life.

Reasons for Resistance to Current Guidelines:

  • Still controversial.
  • Complacency, denial, and avoidance (previous training ingrained, too busy to fit in more learning).
  • Failure to obtain client informed consent.
  • Still vaccinate animals with illness, chronic diseases, and prior adverse events (despite label indications for use in healthy animals; think disease prevention is more important than risk of adverse effects).
  • Erroneously believe rabies boosters are needed legally even with pets at high risk for reactions.

Alternatives to Current Vaccine Practices:

  • Avoid unnecessary vaccines or over-vaccinating.
  • Use caution in vaccinating sick or febrile (feverish) animals.
  • Tailor specific minimal vaccine protocol for dogs/cats breeds or families at risk for adverse reactions.
  • Start vaccination series later, despite breeder and pet owner concern for infectious disease risk; especially for parvovirus.
  • Alert caregiver to watch animal behavior and health after boosters.
  • Avoid revaccination of those with prior adverse events.

Practical Solutions: Education, Education, and Education!

  • Understand duration of vaccinal immunity.
  • Accept potential for adverse events.
  • Recognize adverse events rather than dismiss or deny them.
  • Inform clients of issues and encourage options.
  • Offer titers for core vaccines triennially or more often.
  • Explain optional vaccines may not be needed.
  • Educate about breed and other predispositions.

About the Author:

W. Jean Dodds, DVM has been a veterinarian for 50 years, first in upstate New York and then in California where she founded Hemopet -- the nonprofit blood bank program linked with re-homing retired racing greyhounds through Pet Life-Line. Hemopet offers a full range of diagnostic, patented technology through Hemolife. Dr. Dodds teaches animal health care professionals, and companion animal guardians on various topics including vaccinology, nutrition, and holistic medicine.

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