Vaccines Revisited


There is wealth of new information on pet vaccines that indicates we over-vaccinate our animals.  Evidence shows that pet vaccines against viral diseases actually elicit the same kind of long-term immunity that we have come to expect of human vaccines. We give our children a series of vaccinations when they are young but we do not repeat these vaccinations every year.  We rely on the immunity that they have built up as a result of the childhood vaccinations.  New studies show that we can also rely on the puppy and kitten vaccinations the same way.  This newsletter tries to explain how this works.


General Information on Vaccines and Immunity


Puppies and kittens are born immunologic-ally naive, that is, since their immune system is not yet developed, they are unable to produce any antibodies. When the infant suckles its mother's milk (the collostrum), it ingests and absorbs a spectrum of antibodies.  These are anti-bodies that the mother has developed against viruses (wild and vaccinal) that she herself encountered during her pre-pregnancy life. This happens in the first few hours after birth and constitutes the infant's "passive immunity," as it was passively acquired from the mother, rather than actively made by the baby.

The passive immunity dons the youngster with antibodies against common viral aggressors but lasts only about 3 or 4 months.  By the time this passive immunity wears off, the youngster's own immune system is fully developed and capable of producing its own antibodies as needed.

Vaccinating too early may fail to elicit immunity

Just as the passive immunity protects the baby from real viruses, it frequently interferes with vaccinal viruses. When we vaccinate puppies and kittens before about 3 months old, they use their passively acquired immunity to fight off the viral particles in the vaccination.  You could say that the vaccines 'spend' the youngster's passive immunity.  This may make them temporarily more susceptible to the very viruses the vaccinations were designed to protect them against!

Once the youngster's own immune system is developed and their passive immunity has worn off, vaccinations are reliably effective.  The vaccination reaches the youngster's own immune system, where the viral particles are tagged, antigens are identified, and the antibody production starts. The first vaccination produces a type of immunity called primary.  When the youngster is given a booster shot, it elicits the formation of memory cells, establishing a secondary response.  This response will remain in the youngster's memory cells for a long time, if not forever.  There are numerous ongoing, independent studies designed to determine the duration of immunity of every particular vaccine marketed for pets.

There are exceptions to this modified vaccination schedule for pets: bacterial vaccines, which elicit a poor immune system memory. People may need "booster shots" to deal with certain bacterial particles (ie., tetanus). Canine vaccines that are bacterial are kennel cough and leptospirosis.  Dogs could be required boosters for these.  There may also be legal requirements to follow, namely, Rabies vaccinations.


Why vaccinate?


Vaccines have a place in wellness programs when they pass the following scrutiny:

  1. The disease they protect against is serious, even fatal, like canine and feline distemper and parvovirus
  2. The disease exists in your geographical area (that is, there will be exposure)
  3. The vaccine is safe and effective (it works, and it won't cause any serious problems in itself)

There are several commonly used vaccines that immediately flunk this test for one or more reasons:

  1. Canine coronavirus is not fatal nor serious.
  2. We don't haveLepto strains here that are covered by the vaccine. The strain recently found in Vashon Island is autumnalis - not included in the 4 in 1 Lepto vaccine. The most recent 2016 report from WADDL showed that out of 90 dogs tested, only 10 were positive. Of the 10 positives, 7 were positive to L. autumnalis, a serovar not included in the vaccines. The vaccine can also cause side effects.  To see the  Leptospirosis Update – September 2016
  3. Kennel cough is not a serious problem nor is the vaccine effective enough to justify its use (nevertheless it is required by so many kennels!).
  4. Cats have been harmed by feline leukemia vaccines, which are neither safe, nor effective
  5. FIP vaccines are ineffective and may intensify disease.
  6. Finally, the vaccine against Chlamydia often provokes clinical symptoms in the vaccinated cat and even their companions!


When to vaccinate?


Healthy kittens and puppies 3 and 4 months old are the best candidates for well-selected vaccinations. By this time, their passive immunity is running low, the vaccine will be minimally interfered with, and the young immune system is quite ready for challenge. That is the time when they start being exposed to a broader world, going to puppy classes, the park, the groomer, the vet, the back yard. Each individual should be evaluated for risks they run in their lifestyles (a show cat may differ in needs from a single cat in an apartment!)


What to vaccinate against?


Recommendations may vary by geographical area. In the Seattle area, we recommend a minimal amount of immunizations. Dogs should be protected against Distemper and Parvovirus. Cats should be protected against Panleukopenia (kitty distemper). State law requires Rabies vaccinations every three years.  Those are the only vaccines that we recommend at Mercy Vet at this time. We do not recommend annual boosters.  These lack scientific validation and verification.

We do not recommend Heart Worm prevention in the State of Washington. See Link below

  Heartworm Statistics Update – October 2016


Side effects of vaccines


There are numerous emerging reports of vaccine-related side effects from the annual boosters. Aside from malignant sarcomas in cats, allergic reactions and long-term immune mediated dysfunction may result from immunizations. Many times we see reactivation of chronic disease, which the body was keeping under control, emerge shortly after booster shots.


More information on reduced vaccines:

Options to vaccines?


Ask your holistic veterinarian about nosodes, a homeopathic alternative to vaccines� and keep your pet strong, happy and healthy, through good nutrition and a clean, rich environment!