The Rabies Challenge Fund has been working for some time to initiate tests to see if dogs really need to be vaccinated against rabies every three years. Besides causing extra costs to dog guardians and extra pain and aggravation for dogs, vaccinations can actually be dangerous for dogs, especially small ones.
Pets: Rabies vaccine research may save some pain
July 2, 2007
Score one – a big one – for the underdogs.
I’ve written before about Kris Christine, who is a prime example of what one woman with equal parts outrage and focus can achieve: She pretty much forced the state of Maine to change its annual rabies revaccination requirement from annually to every three years.
So when she called last week with news so exciting she could barely keep her voice from squeaking, I perked up.
“We did it!” she said. “The rabies trials are on!”
Maybe you have no idea what that means. If so, maybe you should read on.
While in recent years many vets have embraced progressive attitudes about vaccination, many still cling to outdated ideas. Among them: giving “annual shots” for core canine diseases such as distemper and parvovirus when three years is considered to be the minimum interval between boosters, or giving vaccines that are not recommended at all, such as coronavirus. (If this sound like your vet, consult the American Animal Hospital Association’s newly updated canine vaccination guidelines at aahanet.org, and consider switching to a veterinary professional who is not still in the Pleistocene era.)
Of all the vaccines veterinarians administer, rabies is the most sacrosanct, largely because the disease is zoonotic, a fancy word that means transmissible to humans. Rabies in the only vaccine mandated by law for dogs and cats; New York, like many states, requires revaccination at three-year intervals, which is the longest. (A handful of states, including Alabama, still mandate annual boosters.)
But some veterinary immunologists believe the rabies vaccine confers a duration of immunity that exceeds three years – in fact, as much as five or seven years. Problem is, there have been no clinical trials – in which dogs are vaccinated and then exposed to the disease – to prove that. And vaccine companies, which normally conduct the trials, have a strong economic incentive not to. After all, how much sense does it make to spend a ton of money to be told consumers need less of your product than you are selling?