Animal Vaccines  -   Catherine O'Driscoll

I once asked my doctor what caused cramps. He replied, "Nobody knows." What he was actually saying was that he didn't know. Now that I know, I'm probably smarter than my doctor where cramps are concerned. So I guess that the experts don't know everything there is to know about everything there is to know.

In fact, Steve Dean's legendary ignorance on the subject of vaccination is truly remarkable.

1) The parvovirus vaccine is admitted by Merck, a vaccine manufacturer, to be one cause of autoimmune haemolytic anaemia.
2) Similarly, one of the rabies manufacturers states in its own data sheet that extraneous animal proteins found in some vaccines can cause autoimmune disease.
3) Dr Jonas Salk, of the famous Salk Institute, has placed on record his opinion that the polio vaccine is the sole cause of polio in the USA today.

So, in the space of three sentences, I think we have established that vaccines CAN be dangerous. But are they efficacious?

The leptospirosis vaccine, for which Mr Dean advocates a yearly booster, is said to be effective for only a few months, leaving 'unprotected' dogs to the mercy of this disease. Why, then, aren't dogs keeling over and dying of lepto in vast numbers between shots?

The parvovirus vaccine has an extremely high failure rate - having studied six parvovirus vaccines, Ronald D Schultz, a top USA veterinary immunologist, concluded that only two provided 100% protection; one provided partial protection; and three did not protect at all. So if vaccination is so successful, as Mr Dean claims, why didn't the dogs vaccinated with the ineffective three vaccines keel over and die of parvovirus? Has he heard of herd immunity, and the fact that an epidemic naturally abates once a certain proportion of the 'herd' develops antibodies - naturally - to the disease? If not, why does he consider himself an expert on the subject?

Don't you think it interesting that the Concise Oxford Veterinary Dictionary should put forward the view that parvovirus was caused by shedding of the feline enteritis vaccine? Does Mr Dean not therefore think it possible/feasible that vaccines can cause diseases to spread and/or remain in the eco-system rather than eradicate them?

Distemper: I have on my files a great number of letters from people whose dogs died of what looks remarkably like distemper within hours or days of being vaccinated for distemper; ditto for hepatitis. The typical vet answers that the disease was probably incubating in the dog at the time of vaccination, or it must have been a bad batch of vaccine, or it wasn't distemper or hepatitis the dog died of at all. But could it be that these dogs might just have been infected with a disease by the injection of the live virus into their body? Dr Salk's comments regarding the polio vaccine mean that Mr Dean is no longer able to laugh us out of court for suggesting this possible scenario.

Add to this the vast catalogue of dogs who suffered:
epileptic fits,
hypersensitivity reactions,
anaphylactic shock
and even death within hours or days of vaccination.

Of course, the vets haven't always (in fact rarely) connected the vaccine to the reaction. This might be because they haven't read the data sheets supplied by the manufacturers, or they don't understand what hypersensitivity reactions or anaphylactic shock are, or they don't want to jeopardise the biggest 'earner' in the practice, or they are bound by peer pressure and selective education to tow the party line. Or might it be that vaccines are very unstable and require careful storage and handling by the vet if they are to be safe or effective?

But there comes a point where coincidence, supported by scientific evidence, will eventually become known to the public at large. At this point, we will vote with our pockets (and many of us are already doing so). In the meantime, following Mr Dean's advice, many owners will watch their dogs die and suffer the consequences of vaccination. No, we cannot guarantee that dogs won't contract viral diseases - but neither can we guarantee that vaccines won't cause viral disease or produce catastrophic side-effects. In short, neither option provides guarantees. There are, however, ways in which we dog lovers can boost our dogs' immune systems so that they are more able to fight off viral disease.

While vets like Mr Dean pat us on the head and tell us not to worry our little selves, and expect us to take their word for it, the scientific evidence exists to tell us the whole truth - if the truth is of interest to us.

I draw your attention to Dr Schultz's advice regarding annual vaccination:

In Current Veterinary Therapy X1, 1992; Tom R. Phillips and Ronald Schultz, state that
"A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity or verification is annual revaccinations. 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, as a result of interference by existing antibody."

Translating these few snippets for the consumer, this means that boosters probably cancel immunity out; we are being encouraged to subject our dogs to vaccines that might not give full protection or any protection at all; the same vaccines might cause chronic and/or acute adverse reactions; and they might cause death (and have been known to do so).

Mr Dean says that reactions are extremely rare and then pins the blame on genetics (it's that familiar scapegoat the breeder again). Well I happen to disagree with him. Other factors can render the chance of vaccine reaction more likely, including diet, stress, concurrent drug therapy, and the general health of a dog. This is not because I'm one of those 'wrathful homoeopaths' that Mr Dean so likes to snigger about, but because I've taken the trouble to examine the scientific evidence in the hope of keeping my remaining dogs alive beyond middle age.

One thing appears puzzling to me: how prevalent are these diseases we are urged to vaccinate our dogs against? The National Office of Animal Health doesn't know. The Kennel Club doesn't know. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons doesn't know. The RVC doesn't know. MAFF doesn't know. I know they don't know because I asked them within the last fortnight. In fact, we are being urged to weigh the risk of unquantified disease against the risk of under-quantified vaccine reactions. Another thing nobody knows: how common these reactions are. In all but one or two of the cases that have been reported to me - even when the vaccine manufacturer admitted liability - no-one sent off the Yellow Form - MLA 252(A) - to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

I venture to suggest that, far from being an open and shut case as Mr Dean suggests, the jury is still out on the subject of vaccination. The case hasn't even been properly presented yet. At the present time the playing field is rather stacked in favour of the home team: most dog owners accept the advice about vaccine products from people who make money from flogging the products. The Canine Health Census is asking the consumers to speak. Unlike the veterinary profession, as represented by Mr Dean, we are actually listening.

The evidence against vaccination - if you have ears to hear - is utterly damning, of which this letter is but the tip of the iceberg.