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Monday, September 10, 2012

Vaccines, Side-Effects, And Brain Damage?

Here's one from Stefanie...

I just came across this blog that mentions vaccine induced meningoencephalitis.  Apparently this occurs with the rabies vaccine.  Have you ever seen this in your practice and how common is it?  

Let's begin by saying that ANY medication or treatment can have complications.  Go pick up any over-the-counter medication in your medicine cabinet and read the small-print.  I'll bet you never realized how potentially dangerous aspirin and cold medicine can be.  If you want a real scare, go onto WebMD and put in any symptoms you might feel every week.  You may come out of that thinking that you need to update your will.

My point in bringing this up is that most of the anti-vaccine people quickly point to death and other serious complications of vaccines.  However, the actual incident rate of such things is very small.  On average a serious side-effect happens less than 1 in 10,000 times, so a dog or cat has less than a 0.1% chance of a significant reaction.  Can bad things happen?  Absolutely.  But they are the exception rather than the rule and vaccines are overall considered very safe for the majority of patients, as well as being far better than the diseases we're trying to prevent.

In my 15 years in practice I have given countless thousands of doses of vaccines.  Figure that I see around 100 patients per week and half or more of those receive vaccines.  A little quick math...50 work weeks in a year...2500 x I've given somewhere around at least 35-40,000 vaccines so far in my career.  Out of all of those I've seen 4-5 truly anaphylactic reactions that almost resulted in death.  More common reactions are vomiting, facial swelling, and hives, but even those happen less than 10 times per year (still great odds) and are normally just uncomfortable without being life-threatening.  Being sore, lethargic, or running a low-grade fever are all normal for a day or two after vaccines and are not considered "reactions", instead being "responses" that are normal for the immune system.  With proper precautions such as pre-treating with antihistamines or antiinflammatories, these mild reactions can be prevented.  In fact, one of my own dogs had facial swelling after her first adult vaccines, but I continue to vaccinate her with no problems by giving her diphenhydramine injections before and after the vaccines.

So what about the meningoencephalitis that Stefanine mentioned?  This is a serious inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and doesn't show up immediately after the vaccine.  It seems to happen more commonly in very young dogs that are given a modified-live vaccine, while rabies are killed vaccines.  In fact, in my searching it seems to be more common after a distemper vaccine than any others.  That being said, it's probably the rarest of all vaccine reactions.  I've never seen one in my career and have never talked to any colleagues who have mentioned this.  It's certainly nothing I ever worry about in my patients or my own pets.

Most of the time you'll see effects like this one and others brought up by people who are against vaccines and are into holistic or homeopathic therapies.  Yes, they can show incidents of such problems, but they are overwhelmingly the minority of cases and are statistically rare.  They are also impossible to predict ahead of time.  Make your own decisions but realize that most vets continue to use vaccines on their own pets without concern.


  1. your answer to the question about vaccine reactions clearly shows your a vet who is overvaccinting pets. I would ventur to say you are also about a decade behind in vaccine advances and your still doing annual or tri annual vaccines.

    You have no way of knowing if the pets your over vaccinating are having adverse reactions if your not tracking them. Most vets don't treat the vaccine reactions,the emergency clinic would. The stats say only 1% of all reactions are even reported.This would clearly show we have no idea of how many there are, even you don't know.

    I guess with all that income coming in from the vaccines you are not interested in the reactions anyway. You have your own agenda for doing so.

  2. Yep, I knew I'd get a comment from someone who had a very anti-vaccine viewpoint. I guess I should have also expected a comment from someone who is judgmental without knowing the facts and is making accusations without any knowledge of the situation. I got both.

    BJ, there is not a great consensus among veterinarians over vaccine durations, despite what you may think. I give vaccines every 3 years as allowed by law (some states and counties don't recognize rabies for more than a year and we have to comply with the law) or as acknowledged by immunologists and manufacturers. There are some vaccines that are clearly proven to last no longer than about a year. Others are known to last for at least 3 years, but we don't have good data to show how much longer they last. There is also a significant lack of data clearly associating vaccines or "over-vaccination" with immune-mediated diseases, chronic illness, allergies, etc. I've seen many of the studies in journals and the evidence simply isn't there.

    I have looked at the data available (remember, I'm a practitioner, not a researcher) and there are very few studies that support a 7-10 year duration. I've seen comments from immunologists and internal medicine specialists that are skeptical about some of these durations.

    I do track our reactions, and I do report them to the manufacturers. Also I'm not sure where you get your data but most vets DO treat reactions. They only end up at the emergency clinic if it's after hours. And every ER I've worked with in 15 years of practice and in 5 states always sends a report to the animal's regular vet. So your statement is clearly uninformed.

    I also resent the implication that I'm money-hungry and am only doing it for this reason. Vaccines make up a smaller portion of our revenue than you think, and my practice focuses on other aspects of medicine and preventative care. If you think that vaccines are a big money-maker for vets, you really don't understand how the business works.

    So what's your agenda, BJ? Let's see some facts.

  3. As for your assumptions, I am not anti vaccine. I’m pro choice, as in, I don’t want MY rights to choose what medical procedures my pet, or myself for that matter, will be subjected to to be taken away from me. In the past 4 years I’ve seen to at least 10 different vets , every one of them took that choice away from me. When the vets says “we require’” or “it’s our policy” (pertaining to vaccines) in order for my pet to be treated at their office this is stripping the pet owners right away from them. My pet is my responsibility, I’m paying the bills I should be the one with the final say and no one else. The vet has a legal and ethical obligation to fully inform you about the risks and benefits of any vaccination. The vet has a legal obligation to get MY informed consent, this is not happening.

    Even at three years this is still over vaccinating of our pets….

    The AAHA Guidelines state on Page 18 that: “We now know that booster injections are of no value in dogs already immune, and immunity from distemper infection and vaccination lasts for a minimum of 7 years based on challenge studies and up to 15 years (a lifetime) based on antibody titer.”They further state that hepatitis and parvovirus vaccines have been proven to protect for a minimum of 7 years by challenge and up to 9 and 10 years based on antibody count.

    We don't repeat vaccinations for parvo and distemper because we need vaccines more than once to form immunity. They are repeated for two basic reasons only: Habit, and to catch those few individuals who for some reason don't respond to the first vaccination. A single immunizing dose of a modified live virus vaccine - in other words, one vaccine that works - will form long term, probably lifetime, immunity to parvo and distemper. (Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XIII; 2000)

    Ronald Schultz provides an analogy with human measles vaccination, noting we don’t regularly revaccinate people. Schultz notes “the immune system of a person is similar to that of an animal, and since immunity persists for the life of a person (average 70+ years), then why wouldn’t immunity from canine or feline vaccines persist for 10 to 15 years? The answer is that many canine and feline vaccines do provide the same lifelong immunity”. continued..

  4. Veterinarians use unproven vaccine product label revaccination recommendations to try and
    justify over-vaccination with core MLV vaccines. But these revaccination recommendations are
    arbitrary and have no scientific basis. This fact is well-known in the international veterinary
    community, after the alarm was raised in an article titled “Are we vaccinating too much?”
    published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1995. This
    article acknowledged that there was little scientific documentation to back up vaccine product label
    claims for annual revaccination, noting that many vaccines would “last for years” I have studies that show duration of immunity at seven to nine years for all the core vaccines except rabies, and even on an antibody basis I can show that rabies gives much longer protection than three years,” says Dr. Schultz

    Schultz, Ronald D, Duration of Immunity to Canine Vaccines: What We Know and What We Don’t Know, Proceedings – Canine Infectious Diseases: From Clinics to Molecular Pathogenesis, Ithaca, NY, 1999, 22.

    Minimum Duration of Immunity for Canine Vaccines:
    Distemper- 7 years by challenge/15 years by serology
    Parvovirus – 7 years by challenge/ 7 years by serology
    Adenovirus - 7 years by challenge/ 9 years by serology
    Canine rabies – 3 years by challenge/ 7 years by serology

    Most vets only recognize the immediate allergic reactions. The other adverse reactions that can and do take place weeks or months later, are the ones the vets are not acknowledging. Is the vet going to be responsible if my pet has a reaction? If my pet develops thyroid disease, Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) and immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP), an autoimmune disease such as Cushing’s disease, Addison disease, behavioral problems, eating disorders, digestive problems, allergies, skin complaints, arthritis and so on, would you even, for one minute, even consider that it can be traced back to the vaccine you administered to the pet? I seriously doubt it,that would be admitting responsibility. It’s typically chalked up to it being a “coincidence”. A vaccine is to be administered to HEALTHY pets. How many vets take the pets health status or age into consideration when insisting the pet be vaccinated again?

  5. As for the frequency of reactions, no one knows the exact number because the reactions are not being reported. A study of more than 1,000 cats and 1,000 dogs in the United Kingdom by Canine Health Concern in March 2001 showed a 1 in 10 risk of adverse reaction from vaccines! The study, which tracked over a seven-month period the health of cats and dogs vaccinated by one UK veterinarian, found that 7.54% to 12.42% of the dogs had adverse reactions within a 45-day period post-vaccination. An almost-identical number of cats - from 7.56% to 12.44% -- also suffered adverse reactions within 45 days. This is quite contradictory to the vaccine-manufacturers' claim that less than 15 adverse reactions occur out of 100,000 companion animals vaccinated. The UK study results were reported at the 99%
    confidence level. Vaccine manufacturers rely on adverse-reaction statistics from the vets themselves.

    Veterinarians are not required by law to report adverse reactions to vaccines, to which the World Small Animal Veterinary Association stated in their 2007 Vaccine Guidelines that there is: "gross under-reporting of vaccine-associated adverse events which impedes knowledge of the ongoing safety of these products," and in an article entitled, A New Approach to Reporting Medication and Device Adverse Effects and Product Problems, (JAMA - June 2, 1993. Vol.269, No.21. p.2785) Dr. David Kessler, former head of the Food & Drug Administration, reported that "only about 1% of serious events are reported to the FDA."

    In light of the 10,000 adverse reactions to the rabies vaccine in the JAVMA report, 65% of which were in dogs, the estimated 1% reporting of "serious" events by the former head of the FDA means that the actual number of dogs that had adverse reactions to the vaccine would be more like 650,000 --applying the 5.5% figure given by the CVB resulting in death indicates that 3,750 died over the same 3 year period (1,250 a year or 6,250 over the course of 5 years, or 8,750 over the course of 7 years).

    For the number of dogs adversely reacting to the rabies vaccine, Dr. Ronald Schultz of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine states:"A rabies vaccine and vaccination schedule with a seven year DOI will reduce the number of animals that develop adverse reactions following immunization, which is currently estimated to be 1-3% of the population." Time Out: Rabies Researchers Assess New, Long-lasting VaccineNEWStat, American Animal Hospital Association June 25, 2008 Based on the estimate of "...more than 72 million pet dogs in the U.S." from the American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook (2007 Edition), the currently estimate 1-3% of the population adversely reacting to vaccination translates into between 720,000 and 2,160,000 dogs.

  6. According to the Center for Veterinary Biologics stated: Between 4/2004 through 3/2007 there were 10,000 reports concerning adverse reactions to the rabies vaccine, of those, 65% where for dogs. Taking into account that there is a serious underreporting of adverse reactions, amounting to only about 1%. If 65% of the 10,000 reported cases amounted to only 1% reported then the real figure for adverse reactions would be closer to 650,000 cases!

    As to why I say the vets has their own agendas, is because they fear the loss of this income. I’ve seen the articles addressing this issue in vet periodicals. This is a very real concern for vets and to say other wise is nonsense. Without the vaccine as the carrot the client would not come in as much. These are other vets addressing this issue.
    Anecdotally, Ronald Schultz reports:
    I have also been told by many practitioners that: “I believe the duration of immunity for some vaccines like distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis is many years, but until I find another way to get the client into my office on a regular basis I’m going to keep recommending vaccines annually”.107(Schultz, R.D. 2007. )

    Vets out of school 10 years or longer have had
    little to no immunology, and no vaccinology. Don't
    expect them to have a clue on what they are doing
    when vaccinating unless they make an effort to get
    into this information, by reading the literature from
    the researchers, not conflict marketing articles from
    free periodicals like Veterinary Forum.

    89% of veterinarians indicated that dog and cat vaccinations were indeed the number one contributor to practice turnover and 91% of veterinarians felt that a change from annual vaccination would have an adverse effect on their practice turnover. 80% of veterinarians also indicated that it would be difficult to attract clients on a regular basis should there be a change from annual vaccination…(Virbac Newsletter “Facts on Vaccination”, August 2005.) ….Annual vaccination appears to be an important source of income for many veterinarians and veterinarians believe that annual vaccination imposes the discipline on the pet owners.( Ibid.)
    09 sucilli

  7. B.J.,

    Since you obviously know more than veterinarians, why bother even bringing your pet to one?

  8. As to your comment to BJ I was always under the impression that vets were caring,animal lovers.But it seems your reply to BJ stinks of attitude I see BJ only trying to reason on all supplied information,and looks quite interesting to me.I have a pet dog that has suffered fits ever since having the rabies injection ,the dog is ill but still Shepards vets in BRIDGEND insist i have him vacsinted for his yearly vacsination.This has changed my mind about vets and now understand that its only for the money just as BJ said example,£1.68 for a single phena barbitol at the vets and 6 pence on the net from a vet suppliers so a definetly yes to money makers good on you BJ

  9. I've noticed that anti-vaccination websites will state the number of adverse reactions but they don't compare that to the number of vaccines given. I think the study that found 10,000 reactions was out of over a million vaccinations, which would be 1% or less. Then if you take the percentage that were severe reactions, the odds are truly miniscule


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