February 19, 2013

Vaccine Efficacy Standards: Yer Takes Yer Chances

Since December 2012, in his own words, Dr. John Robb, the Stamford CT veterinarian at the center of a vaccination debate has been robbed of his business, deprived of his income, handcuffed to a gurney in front of the PetSmart in which he previously practiced, evaluated in a psychiatric ward, cited for trespassing and is now being threatened with losing his license to practice veterinary medicine.

What wrong did Dr. John Robb do his patients? Did vaccinating dogs and cats under 50 pounds with a half dose of vaccine put them at risk of contracting rabies, distemper, parvo or hepatitis?

One of the reasons given for censuring Dr. Robb and possibly stripping him of his license - he did not follow manufacturer's dosage recommendations.
Connecticut resident and national American Hospital Association President Dr. Mark Russak,who practiced in West Hartford before opening up his own pet hospital in Berlin and recently was an assistant clinical professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University, said regardless of size, dogs and cats should get full doses of vaccine.

"These vaccines have been manufactured from rigorous scientific trials and research to deliver the correct amount of antigens. Antigens are what is developed from the disease-producing agent that will stimulate the body enough to mount an antibody attack against that disease," Russak said.
Russak says that the manufacturer's recommended dose is the amount needed to stimulate the immune system against the disease.

Don't bet on it.

According to a monograph published by World Health Organization in 2003, few laboratories actually test for relative potency in animal vaccines.
Although the need for evaluating the immunizing potencies of rabies vaccines has been recognized since the early Pasteur days and practical standardized tests have been available and in use for over 25 years, many laboratories producing vaccines still do not make a routine practice of potency testing their products.
Merely following a described standard vaccine production procedure does not necessarily ensure that the product will consistently have satisfactory potency levels. Many laboratories that have been producing vaccines for years have been amazed on first testing their products to find that they had low or negligible potencies. (General Considerations in Safety and Potency Testing, K. Habel, World Health Organization)
WHO recommends that manufacturers should establish a minimum acceptable dosage; however, the organization admits that this does not occur because of the difficulty and costs to manufacturers.

You call this rigorous?

Anyone familiar with scientific testing will tell you that the whole point is control. You want to eliminate as many variables as possible in order to get consistent, replicable results.Thus, a drug that tests safe and effective in a 25 pound beagle may have a different result on a different animal, be it cat, dog, ferret, old, young, bigger, smaller, spayed or neutered. These variables are outside the control group; therefore, the drugs on the market today have not been tested for variables at all.
Perhaps that's why a greater percentage of small dogs suffer vaccine reactions. Here’s a detailed explanation from a 2005 study on this which appeared in Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA:). 
In my judgment, without relative potency tests, industry safety and efficacy standards for animal vaccines are too low to guarantee protection of any dogs or cats outside the breed, weight, age and health condition of the dogs sacrificed in laboratory tests.

By vaccinating with an untested dosage of vaccine, Dr. Robb merely adhered to the minimal acceptable standard of the industry: yer pays yer money and takes your chances.


General Considerations in Safety and Potency Testing, K. Habel, World Health Organization. 2003.

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