Vaccinations: A Word of Caution for Our Animals – Part I

by Dr. Will Falconer 
Efficacy (or: Does it Work?) Every procedure we do to ourselves or those in our care should be a useful one or there is no reason to do it. This may seem obvious, but bears mentioning, especially in the world of modern medicine. While vaccinations may confer immunity in animals, how effective or useful is it to repeat this procedure every year, as is the standard recommendation in this country today?Immunology has recognized for a great many years that viruses in vaccinations confer a long-lived immunity. This is why your physician is not sending you postcards every year to repeat your small pox or polio vaccinations annually. They understand your immune system was adequately stimulated in childhood, and a cellular memory exists in you that will "wake up" if any future challenges from these viruses occur.  Is there some profound difference in animals that makes us think they need to repeat their vaccinations yearly? Let me quote from the experts. The following was printed in Current Veterinary Therapy, volume XI, published several years ago (this is  a very well respected, peer-reviewed book that is updated every four years). The authors are veterinary immunologists Ronald Schultz (University of Wisconsin) and Tom Phillips (Scrips Research Institute)."A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity or verification is annual revaccination.  Almost without exception there is no immunologic requirement for annual revaccination.  Immunity to viruses persists for years or for the life of the animal...... Furthermore, revaccination with most viral vaccines fails to stimulate an anamnestic (secondary) response....  The practice of annual vaccination in our opinion  should be considered of questionable efficacy..." In plain English, that means you are wasting a lot of money (and, as we'll see later, risking your animals' health) without much likelihood that your animal is actually becoming "boosted" each year. In other words, the immunity that was established in early life persists, and it is that immunity that actually interferes with subsequent vaccinations. It's much like the case of vaccinating very young puppies. If you vaccinate a puppy (or kitten) at a too young age, the maternal antibodies from the mother's immune system are still present, and the vaccine will be thwarted in its attempt to provoke an immune response. I had the pleasure to meet Dr. Schultz at a veterinary conference a few years ago.  He has done research for many of the companies that market vaccines. It was very interesting to hear his perspective of 25 years in this field.  He clearly had not come to this understanding lightly. One most interesting fact was the way that rabies vaccine comes to be labeled. We currently have a "One-year rabies" and a "Three-year rabies" vaccine. On the labels, the one-year must be repeated yearly and the three- year must be repeated every three years. The reason behind this is the length of time the experimental animals were studied. At the end of one year after their vaccination, the animals were challenged with live rabies virus, the survivors tallied, and the vaccine marketed. The same  vaccine was studied for three years , the data gathered, and this vaccine lot was marketed as "Three-year rabies vaccine." Rabies vaccine is so effective in immunizing that there is likely life-long protection. Why then do we vaccinate annually? And why, in light of the understanding above, are we Texas veterinarians required to use the three-year vaccine annually? Unfortunately, we have a law in place that fails to recognize immunological facts. In Texas, all dogs and cats are required to be vaccinated annually against rabies. What about the other vaccinations? They are also viral vaccines, so there should be  "no immunological requirement" for repeating them yearly. Also know that none of the others are required by law to be repeated annually. Some are even useless to give at any age, others at any age over one year. A lot of what conventional medicine recommends is based on is fear. If there's a "bad germ" out there that might "get us" (or our pets), we want to use something to protect against that germ. We've all heard horror stories about dogs dying of Parvovirus infection, so we are admonished to get yearly (or even twice yearly!) vaccinations against this deadly disease.  Yet how many adult  dogs die of Parvo each year?  Ask your veterinarian this question. Parvo is almost always a disease of puppies under one year of age, and very occasionally old dogs who have weakened immune systems from unhealthy living (commercial diets and frequent vaccinations!). Why, then should we vaccinate against it yearly throughout life? Coronavirus also causes puppy diarrhea and vomiting, but differs from Parvo in that it is not fatal. Is it worthwhile injecting viruses into our animals for a disease from which they will surely survive? Dr. Schultz and others feel it is not. Yet this and other non-fatal viruses are in common use in every "annual (non-)booster" given. You might ask why this annual vaccination habit exists. It's a very good question, and one that conventional medicine is examining more and more frequently as time goes on. A recent watershed occurred when a renowned University of California-Davis veterinary researcher and professor, Neils Pedersen, commented on the practice in a very well respected conventional magazine called AAHA Trends (AAHA is the American Animal Hospital Association). "current vaccine practices are medically unsound.  It is time to question the wisdom of annual booster, multivalent products (combination vaccines, the most common being DHLPP for dogs and FVRCP for cats), and unnecessary vaccines.  Doing so will return companion animals' immunization to its status as a medical and not an economical procedure." What will get us a lot closer to what we really want (healthy animals who are resistant to all disease) is to focus on raising our individual animals in the way that  allows them to do what nature intended: to live freely, happily, and fully alive, with an immune system that responds directly to any challenge that confronts them. In our haste to protect our pets, let's not forget that it's the animal's immune system that protects, not some solution of viruses in a syringe. In Part II  I address another aspect of the vaccine question: safety. For now, suffice it to say that if your dog or cat is an adult who has had vaccinations, there is no immunologic need to continue vaccinating annually: the immunity is present from the early vaccines and will not get any better through yearly repetition.
About the Author
Dr. Will Falconer, DVM
8509 Zyle Rd
Austin, TX 78737

Fax 512-288-5402
Small Animal, Equine, Farm Animal, Avian, Exotic
     He graduated with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Missouri in 1980 and has been in practice ever since. For the first seven years, he practiced very conventionally, using drugs and surgery to treat animals. Since then, he has gradually changed his practice style and philosophy to incorporate a more holistic approach to healthcare. He has taken certification training in veterinary acupuncture and veterinary homeopathy, and has received Certification as a Veterinary Homeopath from the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.
      Dr. Falconer is a member of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, and the National Center for Homeopathy. He writes articles for national pet magazines and medical journals, gives public lectures to animal owners, and shares homeopathic case reports with conventional and holistic veterinarians. He enjoys a full-time classical homeopathic practice in Austin, Texas.