A reaction to the COBTA vaccine report

Veterinarians must look beyond the debate over whether to vaccinate every year or every three years and customize their cat and dog vaccination protocols to the needs of their clients and their clients’ pets, urged Dr. Craig E. Greene, a professor at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, during his 19 July presentation on vaccine guidelines at the AVMA Annual Convention.

The presentation, “Cat and dog vaccination: a reaction to COBTA’s report,” one part of a three-part vaccination update, took an in-depth look at the complicated scientific issues surrounding vaccination. Dr. Greene also critiqued some recommendations made in the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents” report and reports prepared by the AAHA and AAFP. Overall, the presentation supported the customized approach to vaccinations that all three reports advocate.

“(At the university), we are recommending a customized approach to vaccination,” Dr. Greene said.

Dr. Greene said that the debate over whether to vaccinate animals every year or every three years is too simplistic and doesn’t take into account the many issues veterinarians must address when vaccinating cats and dogs.

“There are so many more professional issues involved here,” said Dr. Greene, during a brief interview. “You’ve got to look at the animal, the environment, and the product you are using.”

During his presentation, Dr. Greene highlighted published and unpublished scientific studies that have examined the risks associated with some vaccines, the duration of immunity the vaccines provide, and other issues related to vaccines.

He pointed out that, because of the intense selection pressure placed on purebred dogs, some breeds may be more susceptible to particular viruses, and dogs of certain breeds may be more likely to develop adverse reactions to particular vaccines. Rottweilers are especially susceptible to parvovirus, for example, and Weimaraners appear more likely to develop vaccine-induced distemper.

He also noted that vaccines vary in efficacy, safety, duration of immunity they provide, and types of adverse reactions they cause. Also, various methods of vaccination – injection or intranasal application – may result in differing degrees of immunity and may provide protection more quickly.

The environment an animal lives in is also a factor that Dr. Greene urged veterinarians to consider when deciding on vaccination intervals and vaccination protocols. Animals living in kennels or catteries, for example, require different vaccinations and vaccination intervals than animals living as only pets.

He applauded the COBTA and the AAHA for their efforts to educate veterinarians about vaccination. The COBTA report was released in November 2002, and the executive summary appeared in the 15 November issue of the JAVMA. Individuals can obtain a copy of the complete report by calling (800) 248-2862, Ext. 6770.

The AAHA released its recommendations, Report of the AAHA Canine Vaccine Task Force, in March 2003 at the association’s annual meeting in Phoenix. An executive summary of the report appears in the March/April issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, and the full report is posted on the members-only section of the AAHA Web site.

Dr. Greene also called for more research on vaccines and for the development of better vaccines. “The more science that is put out there, the better,” he said.

September 2003

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