Animal Vaccination Concerns: Vaccine-Associated Auto-Immune And Other Diseases
by Michael W. Fox BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS***
By way of introduction to this critical review, I wish to make it clear at the onset that I am not opposed to the judicious use of vaccines. My approval is conditioned on the proviso that the deployed vaccines have high levels of proven safety and effectiveness for each species upon which they are used, and requires that they become part of an integrated, holistic health care and disease prevention program. When used as a sole therapy, vaccines do not constitute an effective preventive medicine regime. The myth of infectious and contagious diseases having a single cause—the infective organism—is at long last being abandoned as other co-factors are now being more widely recognized, extending the narrow view that developing a specific vaccine is all one requires to reduce the morbidity and mortality of a given disease.
As a veterinarian I am concerned about the consequences of the widespread dissemination of modified live virus (MLV) and genetically engineered (GE) virus strains through the mass vaccinations of humans, livestock and poultry, and in-house companion animals. Read more »
Rabies-vaccine-induced Ischemic Dermatopathy forced the retirement of Peaches from competition. See the disease on her haunch and ears.
Peaches, Judy Schor’s champion agility dog, retired from competition, and almost died, when she developed Ischemic Dermatopathy after rabies vaccination. Judy raised $30,000 with her benefit for the Rabies Challenge Fund, a nonprofit trying to prove that the vaccine gives immunity for at least seven years. Principal Fund researcher Dr. Ron Schultz , and co-Founder Dr. Jean Dodds, spoke about the dangers of the rabies vaccine at the benefit. A second benefit was held in San Diego in 2010. A video from both events is available at Safer Pet Vaccination. All proceeds benefit the Rabies Challenge Fund.
Here is how vaccination changed Peaches’s life as told by Judy: As a well intentioned and responsible pet owner, I take my pups in for their annual Well checks and Dental’s. And like clockwork, every 3 years, as required by law, my dogs would get their 3 year Rabies vaccine. In early April of 2007, I took my beloved Rat-Terrier Peaches in for her 7 year Rabies booster. We returned home and nothing unusual noted, however in retrospect, maybe I was remiss in noticing any lethargy or changes as I really never thought that a legally required vaccine could/would cause any harm.
The antibody titer is used to determine your pet’s need for a booster immunization and whether a recent vaccine caused a strong enough response from your pet’s immune system to protect them against the specific disease.
Since 1996 we have been doing antibody titers instead of the traditional vaccine protocol of yearly boosters for Distemper and Parvo, and Panleukopenia for the cats. Read more »
After “annual vaccination” for parvovirus, Leptospira, Bordetella and a rabies vaccination given long before it was due, Smokey fell terribly ill. “Smokey was diagnosed with Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia (ITP) — extremely low platelets — as well as Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) — a serious blood disease. The combination together is called Evans’ Disease. Smokey’s immune system is attacking both his platelets and his red blood cells, bringing his platelet level down to about 4.6% of normal and his red blood cell count far below normal, though we won’t know how far below until this afternoon. As the vet explained it, our 95 pound German Shepherd has the platelet and blood cell count of a sick Chihuahua.”
Zsazsa, Angela Moran’s much-loved Chihuahua, developed an injection-site tumor after rabies vaccination.
Angela writing Monday, October 12, 2009
I had to have my Zsazsa put down this past week. The vet who helped me care for her said the only way to determine 100% her cancer was from the rabies vaccine was to do a biopsy. We agreed to have it done just for our piece of mind and to have her count if this vaccine caused her death. Dr. Amy went to the company who created the vaccine … and she feels the vaccine caused it and explained we have her brother who we are concerned about as well. [The manufacturer] has agreed to pay for the biospy and claim they have no reports of this vaccine causing this cancer in dogs. They are interested in the results. I applaud the Dr for contacting the company and getting them to agree to pay. She warned we couldn’t sue the company but it’s not about that, it’s about the dangers of the rabies vaccine and the numbers not being accurate.
Dr. James R. Shannon, former Director of the US National Institute of Health, has been widely quoted as saying: “The only safe vaccine is one that is never used.”
But are adverse vaccine reactions really a big deal? Aren’t they just the “fever and fatigue” we’re warned about after yearly shots? Or is there more to learn?
And aren’t moderate and severe adverse reactions rare? Let’s answer this question first.
Reactions are considered rare, in part, because reporting is rare. Unlike reporting for human vaccine reactions, required by the National Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, reporting is voluntary for reactions experienced by animals. Furthermore, there is no federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) for animals as there is for humans, nor is there a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). That does not mean that adverse events aren’t a serious a problem for animals. In fact, because animals are given numerous vaccines repeatedly (and unnecessarily) throughout their lives, rather than just in childhood, the problem is likely worse.
WSAVA Vaccination Group Guidelines (p. 18) recognizes that there is “gross under-reporting of vaccine-associated adverse events which impedes knowledge of the ongoing safety of these products.” AAHA (p. 19) says, “Although AE [adverse event] documentation in veterinary medicine is limited, severe adverse reactions are considered uncommon.” But if reporting is rare, how do they know?
Perhaps the biggest problem in underreporting is the failure to match an illness or problem to a vaccine. Read more »
Note: The following vaccine protocol is offered for those cats where minimal vaccinations are advisable or desirable. The schedule is one I recommend and should not interpreted to mean that other protocols recommended by a veterinarian would be less satisfactory. It’s a matter of professional judgment and choice.
For many veterinary practitioners canine vaccination programs have been “practice management tools” rather than medical procedures. Thus, it is not surprising that attempts to change the vaccines and vaccination programs based on scientific information have created great controversy and unique methods of resistance to the proposed changes have been and are being developed. For some practitioners the issues are not duration of immunity for the vaccines, nor which vaccines are needed for the pet, instead it is felt that every licensed vaccine should be given to every pet on an annual or more often basis. Ironically this is fostered by the fact that multivalent products with 7 or more vaccine components can be purchased for the same price or less than a product with one or two vaccine components. A “more is better” philosophy prevails with regard to pet vaccines. On many occasions practitioners say that “I know many of the vaccines I administer probably aren’t needed but it won’t hurt to give them and who knows the animal may need them some time during their life because of unknown risk.” I have also been told by many practitioners that “I believe the duration of immunity for some vaccines like distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis is many years, but until I find another way to get the client into my office on a regular basis I’m going to keep recommending vaccines annually. Annual vaccination has been and remains the single most important reason why most pet owners bring their pets for an annual or more often “wellness visit.” The importance of these visits for the health of the pet is exceptional. Therefore, dog owners must understand the vaccines are not the reason why their dog needs an annual wellness visit. Another reason for the reluctance to change current vaccination programs is many practitioners really don’t understand the principles of vaccinal immunity.
A significant number of practitioners believe: 1) the annual revaccination recommendation on the vaccine label is evidence the product provides immunity for (only) one year. – Not True
2) that they are legally required to vaccinate annually and if they don’t they will not be covered by AVMA liability insurance if the animal develops a vaccine preventable disease – Not True. Furthermore, certain companies will not provide assistance if practitioners don’t vaccinate annually with core vaccines. Not True – In fact most of the companies have now demonstrated their core products provide at least 3 years of immunity.
1. The only vaccine required by U.S. law is rabies. 16 states, and some localities, currently offer medical exemptionsfor animals with serious health problems and more exemptions are likely coming since the AVMA now approves. Not all states require cats and ferrets to be vaccinated, but all states require vaccination of dogs. Click here to see your state rabies laws. Note: laws change with little fanfare and not all veterinarians know current regulations. In addition, although all 3-year vaccine drug makers guarantee 3-year immunity, and despite the increased health risk from unnecessary vaccination, some localities continue to require more frequent “boosters.” Check with your local Animal Control for details. Find a list of states working on exemptions.
2. There is little or no research showing that annual revaccination for core vaccines boosts immunity. Studies show that the important “core” vaccines Read more »
How long does immunity from a vaccine last? Here are the results of canine duration of immunity (DOI) studies by Ronald Schultz, PhD.*
The study warns: “The minimum duration of immunity data does not imply that all vaccinated dogs will be immune for the period of time listed, nor does it suggest that immunity may not last longer (e.g. the life of the dog). The percentage of vaccinated animals protected from clinical disease after challenge with canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus and canine adenovirus in the present study was greater than 95%.”
Vaccination can provide an immune response that is similar in duration to that following a natural infection. In general, adaptive immunity to viruses develops earliest and is highly effective. Such anti-viral immune responses often result in the development of sterile immunity and the duration of immunity (DOI) is often lifelong. In contrast, adaptive immunity to bacteria, fungi or parasites develops more slowly and the DOI is generally short compared with most systemic viral infections. Sterile immunity to these infectious agents is less commonly engendered. Old dogs and cats rarely die from vaccine-preventable infectious disease, especially when they have been vaccinated and immunized as young adults (i.e. between 16 weeks and 1 year of age). Read more »
Titer testing, also called serology and antibody testing, is a simple blood test to ensure that a dog or cat has responded to vaccination with a specific “core” virus vaccine, for dogs specifically CDV (distemper), CPV-2 (parvovirus), CAV-2 (adenovirus-2), and RV (rabies). Testing can determine if protective immunity exists in a previously vaccinated animal and establish the duration of immunity (DOI). It is a powerful tool for anyone wanting to avoid unnecessary revaccination or to ensure effective vaccination of a puppy or kitten. Titer test results are currently not accepted in lieu of rabies vaccination in the US although USDA rabies titer standards for dogs may be established soon by the nonprofit Rabies Challenge Fund study. Titer testing is generally not useful for testing for Coronavirus or Lyme disease. Titer testing for cats is only done for panleukopenia and rabies and not for herpes and calici. (Note: Titer is pronounced TIGHT er.)
What the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) says about Titer Testing
In our studies aimed at assessing the minimum duration of vaccinal immunity (DOI), approximately 1000 dogs have been vaccinated with products from all the major US veterinary biological companies. The DOI for the various products is determined by antibody titers for all dogs and, by challenge studies in selected groups of dogs. Recently, all major companies that make canine vaccines for the U.S. market have completed their own studies; published data show a 3 years or longer minimum DOI for the canine core products, canine distemper virus (CDV), canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2), and canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2).
Studies with feline core vaccines – feline parvovirus (FPV), calicivirus (FCV) and herpes virus type I (FHV-1) have shown a minimum DOI of greater than 3 years. Based on these results, the current canine and feline guidelines (which recommend that the last dose of core vaccines be given to puppies and kittens 12 weeks of age or older, then revaccination again at 1 year, then not more often than every 3 years) should provide a level of protection equal to that achieved by annual revaccination.
In contrast, the non-core canine and feline vaccines, perhaps with the exception of feline leukaemia vaccines, provide immunity for 1 year. In general the effectiveness of the non-core products is less than the core products. Thus, when required, non-core vaccines should be administered yearly, or even more frequently.
# 2006 Published by Elsevier B.V # 2006 Published by Elsevier B.V. R.D. Schultz / Veterinary Microbiology 117 (2006):75–79. The complete article is available at www.sciencedirect.com