Vaccination Controversy

The following is taken from Kirkwood, Kyra. "Vaccinations: Not If, But When." Dog Fancy, June 2003, 35-45:

"..the controversy surrounding annual booster shots... Few issues in the veterinary world have produced as much debate...

"..many veterinarians now recognize that vaccinating dogs when they still retain protection from previous vaccinations may possibly lead to such adverse effects as autoimmune diseases and chronic allergies. Evidence is mounting that immunity from initial vaccines may last longer than previously believed, negating the need for annual booster shots. Informal studies have shown that approximately 95 percent of dogs retain immunity for many years after administration of some vaccines.

New Guidelines

"A report released this year by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Canine Vaccine Task Force now recommends that boosters for distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis and respiratory infection) be given to adult dogs every three years, rather than annually... Rabies booster are also officially recommended every three years...

" concrete scientific studies have been conducted that prove exactly how long vaccines last... the new AAHA guidelines were based on .. limited evidence...

"As with any medical procedure, vaccines come with inherent risk... When a sick or chronically ill dog receives vaccinations, the effect can be compounded...

"What's alarming to many veterinarians is evidence that in some rare instances, vaccines stimulate the dog's immune system, triggering it to respond against the dog's own tissues. This results in blood, joint, nervous system, or skin diseases that sometimes don't crop up until weeks or even months after the vaccination...

"Karen Hoffman, VMD... sees numerous cases of ear infections, allergies, hemolytic anemia, and thyroid ailments -- infirmities she chalks up to too many unneeded vaccinations, which she says can overstress the immune system...

"[Dr.] Dodds believes in titer tests: blood tests that measure the amount of antibody protection in a dog's bloodstream...

"But some veterinarians question the accuracy of titers, claiming a dog may still be immune even when the titer doesn't show high antibody levels. It also costs more to titer than to vaccinate. In addition, test results can vary from lab to lab...

"The AAHA report advises against the use of the canine coronavirus vaccine due to lack of evidence that the vaccine offers optimal protection against a rare disease that is mild even in the worst cases. Also listed as "not recommended" are the giardia lamblia booster which has not been proven to prevent the infection, and the canine adenovirus-1 (CAV-1).

"The guidelines rank vaccine boosters for Lyme disease, leptospirosis, and bordetella as optional...

"..keep in mind... both kinds of vaccines, those containing modified live viruses (MLVs) and those with killed organisms. Some of the latter, such as the one-year rabies vaccination, still require annual boosters, according to the AAHA report."

The following is taken from the April/May Newsletter of the Senior Dogs Project:

Vaccinations: All Veterinary Schools in North America Changing Vaccination Protocols Recent editions of the Senior Dogs Project's newsletter have reported on the ever-broadening trend of eliminating vaccinations for adult dogs, except for rabies, where required by state law. We have now had a report that all 27 veterinary schools in North America are in the process of changing their protocols for vaccinating dogs and cats. Here, in a nutshell, are the new guidelines under consideration:

"Dogs and cats immune systems mature fully at 6 months. If a modified live virus (MLV) vaccine is given after 6 months of age, it produces immunity, which is good for the life of the pet (i.e., canine distemper, parvo, feline distemper). If another MLV vaccine is given a year later, the antibodies from the first vaccine neutralize the antigens of the second vaccine and there is little or no effect. The titer is not 'boosted' nor are more memory cells induced. "Not only are annual boosters for parvo and distemper unnecessary, they subject the pet to potential risks of allergic reactions and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia.

There is no scientific documentation to back up label claims for annual administration of MLV vaccines. Puppies receive antibodies through their mothers milk. This natural protection can last 8-14 weeks.

Puppies and kittens should NOT be vaccinated at LESS than 8 weeks. Maternal immunity will neutralize the vaccine and little protection (0-38%) will be produced. Vaccination at 6 weeks will, however, delay the timing of the first highly effective vaccine. Vaccinations given 2 weeks apart suppress rather than stimulate the immune system. A series of vaccinations is given starting at 8 weeks and given 3-4 weeks apart up to 16 weeks of age.

Another vaccination given sometime after 6 months of age (usually at 1 year 4 months) will provide lifetime immunity."

The following is from Alan Niquidet, Toller breeder, in an email to the Toller-l on Aug. 1, 2003:

I would like to add two changes to the recommendations just because I feel Tollers are particularly vulnerable to immune reactions which can be triggered by vaccines.

First, many of you know I do not recommend any vaccination for Toller puppies before 12 weeks, and then it is Parvo ONLY and two weeks later Distemper ONLY. Before 12 weeks I recommend instead that you protect your puppies by avoiding public parks, walkways and carrying puppies instead of walking them outside of your home.

Second, at 6 months instead of giving a "booster" I would recommend checking titre levels. This might not only help to avoid any unnecessary vaccinations, it will give us more information about the efficacy of those two little needles at 12 and 14 weeks.

I have used this protocol for nearly 100 puppies now with NO PROBLEMS (not even with socialization). Not a control-based study but at least in my case it has not hurt my puppies to be more conservative with vaccinations.

What You Should Know About Vaccination American Veterinary Medical Association brochure
Think Twice

Colby Glass, MLIS