“To vaccinate or not to vaccinate… That is the question!”

Recently, there has been much debate, fueled primarily by the media, regarding yearly vaccinations of pets. The media, as well as other non-veterinary groups, are asserting that veterinarians are over vaccinating pets in this country. This month’s article will look at this important issue and try to shed some light on this controversial subject.

It is uncertain why or when the veterinary experts at the time decided that yearly vaccinations were the best protocol. Maybe, 50 years ago when supposingly this began, veterinarians extrapolated from human vaccine protocols and continue their recommendations today. I recently attended a large vaccination symposium discussing these issues to determine are vaccinations necessary and do they pose a health hazard to the pet or human.

Major points of the meeting looked at current human protocols compared to veterinary medicine and detrimental health issues to pets and humans as a result of vaccinating or not vaccinating yearly.

I do not have any children, so I have no concept of what vaccines babies/kid/teenagers receive. Experts at the symposium presented a slide from the American Board of Pediatrics regarding their current vaccination protocol for babies in their first year or so of life. It was amazing! According to the protocol, vaccines are given every week for several months. This differs from veterinary medicine in that vaccines are started at 8 weeks of age and done every 3 weeks until 16 weeks of age, then recommended yearly. The program expert calculated a several fold increase in the number of diseases babies are vaccinated against in the first year compared to dogs/cats. Many diseases in children have not been seen in decades, but why do kids still receive vaccines for them? The answer to the question is with a question… would you rather your child get a potential deadly disease or would you rather have them vaccinated prophylacticaly? Most pediatricians have never seen some of the diseases they vaccinate for and would never see them unless visiting a third world country. The same holds true for our pet friends, except, I personally have seen all the diseases I vaccinate yearly for in the past 8 years. Some of these diseases I see every month such as Aids, Leukemia, Hepatitis. Recent research has shown that adverse effects attributed to vaccines themselves cannot be substantiated. Some people ask me to run a blood test on their pet instead of vaccinating to determine if their vaccine level is high enough to protect against disease. If every pet were exactly the same with the exact same immune status, blood tests may be useful. In other words, a flu shot may protect me, but not you since our bodies require different amounts of vaccine for protection.

Current recommendations by immunologists, veterinary colleges and vaccine researchers is to continue with yearly vaccines for Rabies/Distemper and twice yearly for Bordetella in dogs and once yearly vaccines in cats. I guess the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may apply to disease prevention and vaccine protocols.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding this month’s health article, please feel free to call the office.