A life saver!

"Vaccination has been one of the truely life saving discoveries of our time. Without them countless millions of people and animals would have died from what are now preventable diseases."

Vaccinations Discussed

How often should we vaccinate?

Despite the enormous success of vaccination programs, these days people are beginning to questioning whether vets (or GP's for that matter) over vaccinate the susceptible population.
In the USA, Europe and New Zealand it has become commonplace to hear about 3 yearly vaccines. Australia has been slow on the uptake of this new paradigm, but for good reason. We do not want to get it wrong and going back would not be easy!
In 2009/10 SVH hope to initiate a 3 yearly vaccination program, but before you have a big sigh of relief, read on, It's not that simple!
What does a 3 yearly program then mean, and why have they come about?
In the USA in the 1990's it came to light that a small number of cats were developing vaccine related sarcoma. This was discovered to be in response to the Feline Leukaemia vaccine which had become widely popular at the time. FELV is a deadly disease and a vaccine against it was considered a great leap forward in cat health. However the rest of the world were hard pressed to detect this nasty sarcoma development in their populations. It did exist, but at a very low level compared to the USA. To cut a long story short it was felt that the US vaccine contained an adjuvant (something other than the vaccine) that caused the tumour. However once open Pandora’s Box is unlikely to be closed. Were we over vaccinating our feline population? The argument soon extended to the canine population, despite the fact there has never been a similar problem there. With a current strong "anti-vaccination lobby" already active in the human arena things only got worse, with the suspicion that any injection could potentially cause cancer!
Returning to reality, and to allay client fears, the veterinary research community looked into the possibility of extended duration vaccines, hence a reduced need to vaccinate so often. However all the manufacturers have come up with over all this time is a dog vaccine that could convey 3 years immunity against the C3 (parvo, distemper, hepatitis). Recall we had no problems in dogs! There are still no licensed vaccines for cats that confer protection for 3 years.
So where does this leave us? The current recommendations are complex! Ask any vet to try and explain it.
Dogs: If we stock the licensed vaccine we can vaccinate with C3 every 3 years. However the kennel cough vaccines (C3 + 2 = 5!) must still be done yearly. If your vet does not vaccinate with a 3 yearly licensed C3 then they cannot legally issue a certificate stating that your dog has three years immunity. To prove such vaccines are still active would require yearly antibody (blood) testing, that would prove much more expensive than the vaccine! You can imagine how complex this makes our reminder system.

Cats: Not any simpler sorry! There are no 3 yearly vaccines so we cannot issue a certificate to say your cat has 3 years protection. We could do antibody level testing on a yearly basis and issue such certificates, but again the expense would far exceed that of just vaccinating. On top of that it is believed that even if feline enteritis vaccine has extended duration of activity, cat flu vaccines never will and will require yearly vaccines.
On top of all this one would have to have agreement from the whole cattery / kenneling community to accept the new certificates. It’s not simple.

Summary of currently available vaccinations in Australia

Cats: Routine vaccination in cats helps prevent both feline enteritis and cat flu (the F3). Some vaccines also include chlamydia protection (F4) at no additional cost. Most vets regard this as a relatively unimportant vaccine, but may be more useful for breeders.  Optional protection is offered through the feline leukaemia (FELV), Feline AIDS Virus (FIV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) vaccines. Feline leukaemia is a common fatal disease in Europe and North America.  In these countries protection against this disease makes very good sense. In Australia, for some reason the incidence and mortality rate for FELV are much lower. For this reason the vaccination rate is a lot less, and vets usually allow clients to make their own informed decision on whether or not to vaccinate against FELV.  If your cat is at risk (a lot of outdoor access, always in fights, male, and multi-cat households) then it makes sense to pay a little extra for this peace of mind. FIP and FIV vaccines are not considered efficacious enough to recommend at the present time.
Dogs: Protection against canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis and distemper constitute the C3 vaccine. These days most vets offer fuller protection including parainfluenza and Bordatella (the kennel cough components), the C5. Some vets may even offer a C7 vaccine, which also includes Leptospirosis and corona virus, but the general opinion is that these are of little value in Australia and may represent over vaccination.

Cat Vaccination Leaflet

Dog Vaccination Leaflet