March 04, 2012

New Rules for MN Veterinarians Who Give Rabies Shots



Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine has revised its practice guidance rules to curb off-label use of rabies vaccine and get the consent of pet owners before administering it contrary to the manufacturer's label directions.

Minnesota veterinarians are advised to vaccinate dogs and cats according to the recommendations of the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) Rabies Compendium, to issue rabies certificates that accurately state the duration of immunity on the vaccine label, to obtain and document the owner's consent if administering rabies vaccines counter to the manufacturer's label and to have "credible, scientifically-based information....in the possession of the veterinarian and available for review" if the veterinarian chooses to adopt a booster protocol other than that recommended in the Compendium.

According to Kris Christine, The Rabies Challenge Fund, this is a major victory for Minnesota pet owners thanks to Jane Anderson and Chris Addington, who prompted the measure with the aid of the Rabies Challenge Fund.

Concerned at the implication that Minnesota veterinarians may be vaccinating more often than medically necessary and not informing owners, the Veterinary Board surveyed its members to learn how the rabies vaccine is currently administered and reported.

Of respondents, 90 percent were giving rabies vaccine with a three-year duration. 40% of these were repeating the vaccine more often without informing owners that the annual or bi-annual booster shot is not medically unnecessary.

Helping owners comply with local rabies prevention and control ordinances, which often require annual rabies shots, was the primary reason for the deviation. The desire to see their pet-clients more often than every three years was secondary. Unsurprisingly, no respondent said that off-label use was motivated by the income derived from yearly office visits and shots.

The Minnesota Veterinary Board, which is responsible for setting and maintaining license and minimum practice standards for all its members subsequently issued a new rule.

In general, state veterinary boards do not have the power to compel their members to follow practice rules. Their rules are more like guidelines. But publicly declaring that there is no medical necessity for annual rabies vaccine is a very strong commitment on their part. This rule puts veterinarian members on notice that they better have scientific fact in hand to back up any decision to use this potent biologic agent counter to the manufacturer's label.

It also gives Minnesota pet owners a strong stand to challenge yearly rabies shots after administration of a three-year vaccine as well as when a vet wants to vaccinate a companion animals who is ill, pregnant or stressed.

According to the label directions written by its manufacturers, rabies vaccine is "for healthy animals only."

Kudos to all who made this happen.



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