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Boosters: three years is fine!


A LEADING animal vaccine manufacturer has decided to act upon the latest research on the frequency of canine vaccination - which has recently attracted so much controversy in the veterinary profession - and has produced a triennial vaccine which extends booster intervals for dogs to three years.

The UK will be the first country in the world to offer pet owners a canine vaccine that protects dogs against parvovirus, hepatitis and distemper for three years, thanks to recent developments at Intervet UK.

Intervet’s Nobivac® DHPPi vaccine will now have a significant impact on vaccination regimes in the UK and help to address dog owners’ concerns regarding ‘over-vaccination’.

Research

The launch follows many years of research and is hailed by the company as "a significant milestone in vaccine technology." The breakthrough means that veterinary practices can now offer a vaccination schedule for dogs which minimises the number of components given annually, but still maintains protection for individual pets.

"Intervet has been leading the way for some time in terms of positive changes to canine vaccination regimes in this country having already launched a two-year duration of immunity for these diseases a couple of years ago," Jac Bergman, product manager at Intervet UK Ltd told OUR DOGS.

Improved

"With our new extended duration of immunity, owners can benefit from an improved vaccination strategy which means killer diseases like parvovirus, hepatitis and distemper only have to be boosted every three years."

However, the company was careful to emphasise and reiterates the continued importance of visiting the vet every year for an annual health check and the ongoing need to boost dogs against other diseases such as leptospirosis.

"Leptospirosis is zoonotic, which means it can easily be transmitted from dogs to humans if the animal is not protected," continued Jac Bergman. "The same level of research has also gone into our leptospirosis vaccine and we know scientifically that protection starts to decrease after one year. Therefore annual boosters for this disease are absolutely imperative."

Without doubt, vaccination affords vital protection against life-threatening diseases for which there is no cure. Failure to vaccinate means it could only be a matter of time before there are widespread outbreaks of disease in the UK, which have already been seen in other European countries in recent years and have started to appear in pockets throughout this country.

"It is really important that owners continue to see the benefits of vaccination, including annual vaccination against some major diseases," concludes Jac Bergman. "Moreover, it’s important that owners realise the real risks they run if they cease to protect their pet against infectious diseases."

Intervet’s announcement will be sure to add weight to the growing number of vets and pet owners who believe that annual boosters are no longer necessary. Last month, a storm of controversy broke out at the British Small Animals Veterinary Association congress when it was reported that more than 30 vets signed an open letter in the Veterinary Times stating that many vaccines for life-threatening diseases last for many years and sometimes provide life-long immunity. This made the annual boosters recommended by the manufacturers of vaccines unnecessary, they said, and pointed to recent research backing up their claims.

But the BSAVA publicly rejected the claims and warned that animals would suffer if their owners neglected regular jabs.

The letter, published in the Veterinary Times at the end of January, claims that the original vaccines for many diseases, including distemper, cat flu and parvovirus, last for many years.

Recent American research states "there is no proof that many of the yearly vaccinations are necessary and that protection in many instances may be life-long" – a completely different statement to the accepted annual booster line.

The vets were careful to state, however, that animals should be examined by vets every year in order to check on their welfare and general well being.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the BSAVA dismissively claimed that the letter did not represent the views of most vets but that of a minority who had "sympathies with homeopathic medicine. Vaccination has provided the single greatest contribution to the health of our pets over recent decades.

"It is absolutely necessary if we want to prevent major epidemics of disease and the issue raised regarding over-vaccination of pets is simply not justified."

The BSAVA’s rather condescending dismissal of the vets who wrote the letter as ‘a minority who had sympathies with homeopathic medicine’ drew a strong rebuttal from one of the signatories. Indeed, the ‘homeopathic denunciation’ apparently only came about due to a media mailing from a leading vaccine manufacturer.

Chris Day, Hon Secretary of the British Association of Homeopathic Vets told OUR DOGS: "We are first and foremost fully qualified veterinary surgeons with a full scientific training. So if there are any homeopathic leanings on top of that it is as a post-graduate endeavour.

"As one of the signatories to the letter, I feel I am in a position to point that this letter was not written by any of us as homeopathic vets nor did the BAHVS have a hand in the letter nor indeed are all the signatories homeopathic vets. "There is no scientific support for an annual booster system and in fact there is very little knowledge as to how often an animal should be boostered."

Mr Day continued, saying: "There is current research from the USA showing more and more that annual boosting may be unwise in that it can reduce the immunity that is already present in animal’s body. It is very difficult to measure immunity because circulating antibodies are not the only factor involved in determining immunity. Indeed, the animal’s immune system probably has a memory enabling instant responses."

Another signatory to the letter, Vet Mark Elliott from The Centre for Integrated and Holistic Medicine further underlined the points raised by the vets who had signed the letter.

"We are totally pro-vaccination of puppies and young animals as appropriate, and by that we mean not too early, and not too often," said Mr Elliott. "We are however, raising the question of whether animals older than 18 months actually need Boosters at all, especially as the evidence – taken from the recent American study - is already there to show that DHP immunity is for at least 7 years. Supporting this point is the fact that more than half the dogs, and even more of the Cats in the UK are greater than four years behind in their boosters – and this information comes from an Intervet mailing. Yet where are the outbreaks? They just don’t happen, and this is likely to be because immunity is lifelong."

Mr Elliott added: "There has never been a study to show that annual vaccines are needed for any of the core vaccines in cats or dogs, there are plenty of studies to show the duration of immunity is much longer than we are being told. Annual vaccination is an entirely historical precedent, and is not based on scientific data.

The American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Biologic and Therapeutic agents (2003) concluded there was no evidence to support the present annual recommendations.

"The annual vaccination idea evolved when vaccines were pretty basic things, and there were lots of problems with getting appropriate durations of immunity. The reluctance in the veterinary field to increase the interval between doses is lagging well behind the human field, where increases in vaccine interval are the norm as knowledge grows. Just one example is tetanus.

"We are facing a huge personal dilemma, as to question the manufacturers and to step out of their prescribed regimes leaves vets exposed to personal risk. We are taught to follow protocols and considered ‘best practice’, but the issue here is that the ‘best practice’ is being dictated by corporate interests, who do the research themselves, use the registration requirements to hide behind when dragging heels over this issue,

"Some manufacturers are trying to take a considered view in light of the new data, and we take our hat off to them for that initiative, but it is clearly not enough. Vets have been entrusted by parliament with the ethical responsibility for Animal Welfare, and we wanted to raise and expand on this debate, and take it back into the profession’s hands. We feel that the profession should go to vaccinations every three years now, and actively seek to take responsibility and the lead in this issue over the two year window of opportunity that would create. We also believe that the outcome of that issue will be that, booster vaccinations of animals will be shown to be unnecessary."

The Kennel Club had not been on the list of recipients for Intervet’s press release regarding the new triennial vaccine. OUR DOGS passed this onto the KC’s Press Office. Spokesman Phil Buckley commented: "We read the release with interest and have been following closely the coverage that has been appearing in the media regarding the issue of vaccinations and boosters. What has been apparent in the past is the lack of research that existed in this area, but it would now appear from Intervet's release that they have conducted 'many years of research' and see this as 'a significant milestone in vaccine technology'.

"Key to this entire debate has been peace of mind for the owner by providing adequate protection for their much loved pets and our view would accord with that of Intervet who have raised the importance of visiting the vet every year for an annual health check, to ensure that the dog is fit and well.

"The KC feels sure that Intervet's information will provoke further discussion on this important welfare issue and the more research made available to both industry and dog owners, the better."

For owners wishing to find out more about Intervet’s new vaccination regime, please contact your local vet or visit the Intervet website www.intervet.co.uk