Vaccines save a huge number of lives every year. The use of vaccines has been revolutionary when it comes to preventing and controlling the spread of contagious disease. Vaccination is of massive benefit for protecting both animals and humans when they are at risk of contracting a serious or fatal disease.
Since many vaccines have been around for a long time now, many people do not have first hand experience with the diseases that are now largely controlled or eradicated thanks to modern vaccines. This means that it can be difficult for people to perceive the massive benefits that these vaccines provide. Some people are now more concerned with the safety of vaccination than the potential risk of the diseases these vaccines protect against. For people wanting to start a family in many warmer countries around the world, the introduction of a vaccine to protect against the Zika virus would likely be embraced wholeheartedly. Many people would appreciate that any small risk a vaccine may carry would be outweighed by the potential for serious harm to their unborn baby from Zika.
While every vaccine carries a small risk of a reaction, most are very mild and a serious reaction is extremely rare. Unfortunately, if significant numbers in a population stop vaccinating, outbreaks of disease will occur and put the entire population at risk, specifically the most frail members.This has happened recently with outbreaks of measles in children.
If an increasing amount of pet owners decide that due to the small possibility of a vaccine reaction, they are not going to vaccinate, we will lose herd immunity. Herd immunity is achieved when a high percentage of the population is vaccinated as it means few individuals are susceptible to the disease and it is therefore unable to spread. This means that animals that are too young to be vaccinated or any unable to be vaccinated due to health conditions are still protected. If we lose herd immunity, then a resurgence of disease occurs and, with enough cases circulating, even vaccinated pets can be at risk.
Without modern vaccines, people would still think it commonplace for a new puppy to die an agonising death from Distemper or Parvo virus or a child to become extremely ill from Measles. We no longer consider canine and feline distemper or rabies to be real threats because these diseases are all but eradicated, thanks to the power of vaccination. We used to regularly have puppies dying of Parvovirus in our isolation ward despite our best efforts to save them. When we have small Parvovirus outbreaks locally we have people calling us to ensure that their dog is fully protected or to get their pet booked in to restart their vaccines. These outbreaks reignite people’s respect for vaccination.
We also used to regularly see young cats dying unnecessarily of diseases associated with the Feline Leukaemia virus. The Feline Leukemia vaccine has meant that we rarely see it now and Feline Distemper is almost never seen.
If we stop vaccinating, these diseases will re-emerge or become more prevalent.
Myxomatosis is a fatal disease of rabbits - many people have seen a wild rabbit dying a slow and painful death from this horrible disease. It is very common in the UK and all pet rabbits are at risk from catching it. It is spread by flies meaning direct contact with other rabbits is not necessary. Thankfully, it is preventable thanks to vaccination.
At Willow Vets, we want to vaccinate as many pets as possible so that we all benefit from the herd immunity it creates. We do not however want to give any individual animal any more vaccines than necessary. We give vaccination only as indicated for your pet and we are happy to discuss risks versus benefits when tailoring a vaccine schedule for your dog or cat or rabbit based on their life style. We can also check antibody titers to help assess individual pet’s level of protection against specific diseases. Vaccinating helps to protect our own pets, but also helps to keep the entire pet population safe from deadly diseases and this inevitably saves lives.
If you have any questions about vaccination or have questions about anything mentioned here, feel free to call us!