Is Your Pet Receiving an Unnecessary or Unsafe Vaccine?
The American Veterinary Medical Association states,
"Vaccine products vary in efficacy and safety and are not necessarily indicated for all patients. Modern science continues to develop strategies and technologies for safer and more efficacious vaccines. Consequently, thorough evaluations of the potential for disease exposure, individual patient susceptibility to various diseases, and the risks/benefits associated with vaccination, are necessary in order to establish optimal health care programs for each individual patient."
Despite this recommendation, many veterinarians continue to vaccinate all their patients similarly.
The AVMA explains,
"The one-year revaccination recommendation found on many vaccine labels is often based on historical precedent and was allowed by USDA regulation since it was based on the best scientific knowledge available at that time, which did not necessarily include product specific data. Even in those cases where scientific data were submitted to qualify a revaccination label claim, the data generally targeted a minimum duration of immunity and did not necessarily resolve the question regarding average or maximum duration of immunity."
In other words, it may be unnecessary or unsafe to follow antiquated vaccine label recommendations.
The AVMA goes on to assert,
"Vaccination is a potent medical procedure with both risks and benefits. While there is evidence that some vaccines provide immunity beyond one year, revaccination of patients with sufficient immunity does not necessarily add to their disease protection and may increase the potential risk of post-vaccination adverse events.
Adverse events may be associated with the antigen, adjuvant, carrier, preservative, or a combination thereof. Possible adverse events include, but are not necessarily limited to, failure to immunize, anaphylaxis, immuno-suppression, autoimmune disorders, transientinfections, long-term infected carrier states, and local development of tumors."
The AVMA has developed the concept of "core" vaccines, a short list of vaccinations which are most highly recommended, especially for puppies and kittens. A titre test can be performed to determine if revaccination is recommended on an individual basis. At the Animal Doctor we use titre testing to measure the presence of protective antibody levels against the following diseases: canine distemper, adenovirus/hepatitis, parvo virus, feline panleukopenia/distemper, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus. Vaccines against these disorders are all included as core vaccines. These diseases can be easily transmitted from pet to pet via mucus secretions or fecal matter or even air-born. Therefore, initial vaccination of all puppies and kittens to prevent these diseases is wise; repetitive vaccination is not.
By definition, core vaccines are "those that protect from diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, required by law, virulent/highly infectious, and/or those posing a risk of severe disease. Core vaccines have clearly demonstrated efficacy and safety, and thus exhibit a high enough level of patient benefit and low enough level of risk to justify their use in the majority of patients."
Which commonly administered vaccines are NOT core vaccines according to the AVMA?
Kennel cough can be caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria. It is contagious from dog to dog. It is a disease of poor ventilation. Much like catching a cold on a crowded bus, dogs often contract one of many strains of upper respiratory infection in facilities which are humid and house many canines. Signs include runny noses or hacking coughs. The safest vaccine for kennel cough is the intranasal, Bordetella. A new oral vaccine has been introduced to the market. Despite the fact that this is not a core vaccine, many dog kennels and groomers insist on this vaccine for their customers.
Leptospirosis is caused by a Leptospira bacteria. It is shed in the urine of infected animals. Pets and people usually become infected via contaminated water. Infected dogs may develop fever, weakness, vomiting, abdominal pain, and kidney or liver failure. There is a vaccine, but it does not prevent infection. Most puppies who react to their second vaccination, are reacting to the lepto component which is in their distemper combo shot. At the Animal Doctor we believe the benefit does not outweigh the risk, so we do not administer lepto vaccinations. Lepto does not fulfill the requirements to be considered a core vaccine.
Rabies is a core vaccine because it is required by law. It is a USDA approved safe and efficaceous vaccine. Titre testing is not accepted in lieu of rabies vaccination, however, a pet may be eligible for a legal rabies waiver.
Any mammal is capable of contracting rabies. The virus is spread by saliva and is considered fatal. Pets who go outdoors or may come in contact with rabid wildlife or even a bat are at risk. Is an aged pet with cancer, who has received multiple vaccines for rabies during his life, in need of a rabies booster? Is this individual's already taxed immune system at risk of further detriment from an unnecessary booster? Vaccine manufacturer inserts say, "Vaccinate only healthy animals." This would surely be a situation, where during a doctor/client consultation, a rabies waiver would be issued for this pet.