March 13, 2012

Texas Study Shows Gains in Vaccination Rates After 3-Year Interval

News flash: when it comes to vaccinating companion animals against rabies, less is more. 

A new study undertaken by Austin Community College subsequent to the State of Texas adopting a 3 year rabies revaccination protocol in 2003 indicates that the fears of its opponents were unfounded. There have been no negative consequences of extending the interval between rabies shots. Indeed, the rate of vaccination among dogs and cats has improved overall.

When states or territories weigh the public health safety concerns of adopting similar requirement changes, the results of this Texas study should be considered. The hypothesized decrease in rabies vaccination rates after the introduction of a triennial vaccine interval in Texas were not realized. In fact, vaccination rates appear to have improved across the board after the code change. Even among age groups in which the annual vaccination requirement was preserved, vaccination rates increased. 

This is good news to the veterinarians who stridently opposed the rabies protocol to 3 years. Their fears that pet owners would "forget" to revaccinate and that lapsed rabies licenses would cause rabies outbreaks and so much more that never came to pass.

It's also good news for rabies law reform activists who are pushing local communities to get on board with State guidelines. Now there is empirical evidence to support the move to relax rabies control and prevention policies at the city and county level without endangering public health.

Since the 1950's, the goal of public health officials has been to vaccinate dogs against rabies to create a buffer between wildlife and humans. It has been a highly successful public safety program.

According to the Center for Disease Control in 2007, canine rabies has been eradicated from the United State.

Concomitantly, vaccine-related reactions among dogs and cats have increased. This is the unintended consequence of vaccinating the same animals annually rather than expanding the universe of animals vaccinated.

The ACC study supports the view that rabies laws can only go so far before they become counter-productive.

Due to the cost and potential for vaccine damage inherent in annual rabies vaccination, many pet owners stop vaccinating companion animals altogether. Given the opportunity to vaccinate less frequently, it appears that more pet owners are willing to comply with rabies laws.

Some time ago, National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) made the same observation in its rabies control and prevention "bible."
The Center for Disease Control’s National Association of State Public Health Veterinarian's (NASPHV) Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control 2008 states that, “Vaccines used in state and local rabies control programs should have at least a 3-year duration of immunity. This constitutes the most effective method of increasing the proportion of immunized dogs and cats in any population (50).” They specifically warn that, “[n]o laboratory or epidemiologic data exist to support the annual or biennial administration of 3- or 4-year vaccines following the initial series.” Also endorsing the NASPHV’s Rabies Compendium are the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)[1] and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

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