An Educated Approach to Vaccination by Christina Chambreau, DVM
While annual physical examinations by your veterinarian are critically important for the health of your animal, there is growing concern about giving annual vaccines. In my opinion, the best approach to vaccination is to build up the health of animals so they are not susceptible to acute infectious diseases (therefore do not need vaccines). Some dogs and cats will become severely ill even with the very first vaccines, so before vaccinating, be sure they are as healthy as possible. Vaccines for viral diseases such as dog or cat distemper (panleukopenia) and Parvo provide lifetime immunity if they provide any at all. The other vaccines either provide little immunity, short lived immunity, or do not even cover the local disease. Even Rabies vaccine protects for life but I do recommend following your legal requirements unless you are working with an integrative veterinarian who is recommending less frequently.
When giving vaccines, realize there can be serious side effects. Do no give multiple ones at a time. Take steps to prevent reactions and carefully continue to evaluate health after the vaccine(using the Early Warning Signs) . If health does suffer, treat holistically as soon as problems are noticed.
Are annual vaccines necessary?
Not usually. Do you receive vaccines every year of your life until you die? No. Why not? Why do animals receive them? As early as 1992, Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy, Vol. 11, page 205, said, “A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientiﬁc validity or veriﬁcation is annual revaccinations. Almost without exception there is no immunological requirement for annual revaccination…The practice of annual vaccination in our opinion should be considered of questionable efficacy…” The AVMA published guidelines to give vaccines, at the practitioner’s discretion, every 3 years. A dozen years later many veterinarians are still strongly pushing annual vaccines. Many studies show that immunity to Distemper and Parvo in dogs lasts for 8,10,or 12 years. As you will see below, giving vaccines too often is a major cause of illness.
Current AVMA guidelines show greater than one year for these.
In 2001, then amended in 2007, AVMA’s position paper now states, “Under a veterinarian-client-patient relationship, the practitioner and client must determine the best patient care programs for implementation. Since our knowledge base is constantly evolving, vaccination decisions require a thorough and ongoing review of scientific information and expert opinion in order to appropriately customize vaccine recommendations for individual animal patients.
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.
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.” The key is that no veterinarian should say that every animal needs the same vaccines. Risk is acknowledged.
Historically, many institutions have written about the practice of annual vaccines. Some of these quotes have been now retracted from the internet. The Veterinary Collegeat Colorado State University said on its web site that there is “lack of scientiﬁc evidence to support the current practice of annual vaccination and increasing documentation showing that over-vaccinating has been associated with harmful side effects…” and “…the annual revaccination recommendation on the vaccine label is just that—a recommendation without the backing of long term duration of immunity studies, and is not a legal requirement. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) agreed, saying, “The argument for continuing current historically practiced regimens is based largely on tradition and the perceived paucity of proof supporting extended duration of immunity…” and “…annual vaccination of small animals for many, but not all,
infectious agents is probably no longer scientiﬁcally justiﬁed… such deviations [not giving annual boosters] from recommended administration are becoming more common and more widely endorsed and, as such, should be considered an acceptable standard of care.”
Summary – Annual vaccines are NOT needed (except for a few vaccines that give poor immunity.
An increasing number of vaccines have been encouraged over the last 60 years, often, as AAHA says, “based on limited scientiﬁc evidence.” Yearly, or more often, many clinics are still recommending that the average dog receive a combination injection of Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainﬂuenza & Parvovirus. Often given are Bordetella (Kennel Cough),Coronavaccine, and Lyme disease vaccine. Cats are given a combination of Panleukopenia (cat distemper, feline enteritis) and three upper respiratory diseases, Calici, Rhino, and Chlamydia. Often they are also given Feline Leukemia, and available are Feline Infectious Peritonitis and now ringworm vaccine. New vaccines are constantly being introduced, often for diseases that do not cause many problems.
AVMA (above) says to customize vaccines. AAHA says, “Many veterinarians are under the misconception that current recommendations were and are scientiﬁcally based when, in fact, they may have less basis than the arguments for change.”
The only legal requirement is for Rabies vaccine, which is a viral disease and gives lifetime immunity. You can say no to vaccines.
Harm from vaccines
When people keep track of their animal’s health or the practitioner is tracking changes in every symptom (subtle or obvious), reactions to vaccines are often noted. Obvious vaccine reactions can also occur and most veterinarians will then give drugs to “pre-treat” for these reactions when they give the next yearly boosters. When Gigi received her ﬁrst booster at 1 1/2 years of age, she sneezed for a few days. The next year she had asthmatic coughing and needed oxygen and drugs to recover. The third year the veterinarian pre-treated her with diphenhydramine and was ready with steroids and epinephrine to treat the reaction to the vaccine. Does this make sense? The vaccines were not even needed and clearly she was not healthy.
Veterinarians are now becoming educated of more serious long term problems from vaccines. TheColoradoStateVeterinaryCollegesite said, “Of particular note in this regard has been the association of autoimmune hemolytic anemia with vaccination in dogs and vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats—both of which are often fatal.”
AAHA says, “There is deﬁnite evidence that biologics carry with them risk and beneﬁt.” The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says, “…in 1991, veterinarians began to notice a higher than expected number of sarcomas occurring on cats’ bodies in places where vaccines are commonly injected. Subsequently, an association between vaccine administration and sarcoma development has been established.” In 2003, researchers conﬁrmed ﬁbrosarcoma tumors are occurring at rabies vaccine injection sites in dogs as well as cats. Jean Dodds in 1990 reported “Immune-mediated hematologic disease and transient bone marrow failure are increasingly recognized sequela of…vaccination.” Many ferrets developed fatal green diarrhea the year after owners increased the frequency of distemper vaccination because of fear of distemper.” An on-going study at Purdue University has demonstrated that “the serum of all the vaccinated dogs contains signiﬁcantly elevated concentrations of antibodies directed against proteins.” They go on to say that this could possibly lead to autoimmune diseases. The websites and list serves have archived many examples of problems with animals that followed vaccinations. Homeopathic veterinarians have observed over the last 30 years that most animals need remedies known to counteract negative reaction to vaccines. Acupuncture and other holistic veterinarians have seen that animals responding in a curative way to treatment often relapse after vaccines. Guardians have recorded in their journals that certain ailments (lethargy, vaginal infection, ear problems, digestive upsets, eye discharge and almost any problem) appear within the days to months following vaccination.
A current web search yields millions of sites about adverse reactions to vaccines in all species, including humans.
Many now recommend drawing blood and checking the titers (blood tests for the antibodies to speciﬁc diseases). Adequate titers are often acceptable to anyone (boarding, grooming, pets on wheels, etc) requiring vaccination. Dr. Ronald Schultz, the head of immunology at theUniversity of Wisconsin, says that once you have demonstrated antibodies to a disease (I would just test for distemper and Parvo) you need never repeat, since a low antibody does not mean no protection. Cell mediated immunity and other immune response provide the longer immunity. While drawing blood and getting a titer causes no health risk, it is not needed. You do not do this for your children. Spend that money on regular chiropractic or Reiki sessions.
Alternatives to annual vaccination
First, you need to read and do your own research to decide on this aspect of routine care. Keeping a health journal for each animal will be a key factor in deciding how often to vaccinate your animal. Review your notes from the time the last vaccine was given. Were there any negative health consequences in the days and months following the vaccines? Pay particular attention to behavior changes. The insert in the vaccines says to give only to healthy animals, so the journal will help you know when your animal is most healthy. This is especially useful when giving the legally required Rabies vaccine, or if you are being pressured by travel to a foreign country, or if there is an epidemic.
The holistic perspective, as you now know, focuses on the health of the whole animal. A healthy animal is unlikely to get sick (or very sick) even if exposed to infectious agents. Ideally we would never vaccinate, would feed the best diet for each animal (probably using local fresh meat and vegetables) and treat the early symptoms that indicate the body is out of balance. If they do develop an infectious disease, it can usually be treated successfully with modalities ranging from conventional to acupuncture to homeopathy. Already having a relationship with a veterinarian who feels comfortable treating infectious diseases is important. Vaccinating an animal does not necessarily protect them from the very diseases for which they are vaccinated. This is because the vaccine may be ineffective or there may be systemic immune weaknesses preventing a protective immune response.
Animals can be safe from most infectious diseases when not vaccinated, and often life spans and overall health improve. I have heard and read many reports from breeders of signiﬁcantly longer life spans and even a disappearance of “breed” diseases.
Horses getting fewer vaccines often no longer colic, do not have as many hoof problems and live longer. Not vaccinating one large beef cattle herd eliminated calf scours. Brighthaven, a wonderful sanctuary for elderly cats (adopted at 16 or older) stop vaccinating, feed raw and use holistic approaches. They have had a cat live to 34. I know horses who got no vaccines, or none after their teens who lived to 37 and 42 (not ponies, who normally live long). Dog longevity depends on the breed, with small dogs generally living longer. However, within a breed, not vaccinating increases life span – Rotweilers – 18 rather than 8; German Shepherd to over 20; Great Danes to 16; and more.
Nosodes are homeopathic remedies made from the tissues of diseased animals. Many people use nosodes instead of vaccinating. There is little historical or philosophical evidence for this approach. I do not recommend trusting nosodes to give future protection. Nosodes often prevent infection if given after the animal has been exposed, so can be useful in breeding and showing families. Sometimes repeated use of nosodes can cause the appearance of some symptoms, so if this happens, discontinue the nosode and seek professional homeopathic care.
Animals who are being treated by me usually receive only their legally required rabies vaccinations. Because the rabies vaccination is legally required in many cities, counties and states, your animals need to receive this one vaccine whenever it is due. Time the administration of this, and any other vaccine that you must get (for travel to certain foreign countries) when the animal is as healthy as possible. Many conventional veterinary oncologists and other specialists agree with the holistic community about not vaccinating animal with cancer or autoimmune problems – even for Rabies.
Prevent vaccine reactions when they must be given
Support the immune system before and after any necessary vaccination with extra Vitamin C, super diet, antioxidants, energy treatments like Reiki or T-Touch, homeopathy or Chinese medicine. Be vigilant about recording in this journal during this time so you can know if the vaccines have had a detrimental effect on your animal.
One protocol I suggest is to learn Reiki and hold the vaccine syringe in your hand until the “draw” is gone, then Reiki the injection site once you are in car, then offer Reiki daily until they do not “draw.” If you have not yet learned Reiki, hire a Reiki practitioner to have it done for your animal after the vaccine. For two weeks before and two weeks after, give the totally safe Vaccine Detox, a flower essence from Spirit. Give triple the dose of calcium (or add some calcium) for 3 days before and 5 days after the vaccines. Dr. Lynn Peck is finding a drop in calcium at vaccination time. She has some more current information about other minerals as well that I have yet to assimilate.
Revised August, 2012. Posted with permission from Dr. Christina Chambreau
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