October 29, 2011

AAHA Releases 2011 Vaccination Guidelines

Advocates for a sane vaccination protocol for our companion animals are heartened that the American Animal Hospital Association has published new guidelines for vaccinating dogs and cats. They relax the intervals between shots and provide a scientific basis for these recommendations. 

According to AAHAnet.org, these guidelines are:

Developed in a manner consistent with best vaccination practices, the 2011 Guidelines include expert opinions supported by scientific study, published and unpublished documents, and encompass all canine vaccines currently licensed in the U.S. and Canada. The task force that developed the guidelines included experts in immunology, infectious diseases, internal medicine, law, and clinical practice. 
Dr. Karen Becker, Mercola Healthy Pet is encouraged saying that, "the absolute highlight is that all core vaccines with the exception of the 1-year rabies are now recommended at 3-year or greater intervals.  

Even more exciting to her is the fact that the task force has acknowledged that in the case of the non-rabies core vaccines,immunity lasts at least 5 years for distemper and parvo, and at least 7 years for adenovirus."

Pardon me if I remain skeptical.

The leading veterinary associations have been updating vaccination guidelines that recommend "the fewer vaccines, the better," for companion animal health since a landmark study in 2003.

At that time, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Feline Practitioners and every veterinary teaching hospital in America debunked the idea of one-size-fits-all annual vaccination schedule.

 What AVMA says is "vaccines are a potent medical procedure associated with benefits and risk."  
The COBTA report tells practitioners it's OK to buck the tradition of annual vaccinations and consider "exposure probability, susceptibility, severity of disease, efficacy and safety of vaccines, potential public health concerns and owner's preferences" before inoculating.

The position of the American Animal Hospital Association is:

“Every effort should be made to change laws that require vaccination with this rabies product more often than every three years since annual vaccinations cannot be shown to increase efficacy and it is known to increase adverse events.” (Paul, Michael, Report of the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Task Force: 2003 Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Recommendations, and Supporting Literature, AAHA Foundation, March 2003.)

Vaccinations in Veterinary Medicine: Dogs and Cats by Don Hamilton, DVM

A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity or verification is annual re-vaccinations. Almost without exception there is no immunologic requirement for annual revaccinations. Immunity to viruses persists for years or for the life of the animal. Successful vaccination to most bacterial pathogens produces an immunologic memory that remains for years, allowing an animal to develop a protective anamnestic (secondary) response when exposed to virulent organisms. Only the immune response to toxins requires boosters (e.g. tetanus toxin booster, in humans, is recommended once every 7-10 years). And no toxin vaccines are currently used for dogs and cats. Furthermore, revaccination with most viral vaccines fails to stimulate an anamnestic (secondary) response as a result of interference by existing antibody (similar to maternal antibody interference). 
Yet in 2011, veterinarians in Minnesota were busted for misleading clients about the appropriate interval for rabies - maximally every three years according to National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians and all 50 state public health vets. This is just one of many examples.

Let's just say that the members of AAHA, AVMA and AAFP are a wee slow to get on the bandwagon with these "guidelines."

Still, knowledge is power.

Pet owners are encouraged to arm themselves with the 2011 guidelines for vaccination from this important veterinary association before your next vet visit. It makes saying "no thanks, we don't need that service this year," much easier.

Dr. Becker has more information about this on her site. Worth a read.

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