Are we vaccinating too much?
(Catherine O'Driscoll is founder of
Canine Health Concern, and author of the book,
Don't Tell You About Vaccines")
The truth is, we ARE
vaccinating too much.
The American Association of
Feline Practitioners, The Academy of Veterinary Internal
Medicine, The American Animal Hospital Association, The
American Veterinary Medical Association, Council on Biologic
and Therapeutic Agents, and 22 Veterinary Schools in North
America have changed their recommended protocols for
vaccinating cats and dogs. The AVMA Council on Biologic and
Therapeutic Agents (COBTA) presented their consensus at the
July, 2000 137th Annual AVMA Convention. They focused on the
When an annual booster vaccination
with a modified live virus vaccine (i.e. Distemper, Parvovirus
or Fe Distemper) is given to a previously vaccinated adult
animal, no added protection is provided. Modified live virus
vaccines depend on the replication of the virus for a
response. Antibodies from previous vaccines do not allow the
new virus to replicate. Antibody titers are not boosted
significantly, memory cell populations are not expanded. No
additional protection is provided.
Manufacturers' label claims should be backed by scientific
data. There is no scientific data to support label directions
for re-administration of MLV vaccines annually.
Vaccines are not harmless. Unnecessary side effects
and adverse events can be minimized by avoiding unnecessary
vaccinations. Average pets are similar enough in their
exposure to infectious disease and in their response to
vaccines that we can have a standard recommended vaccination
protocol. Veterinarians need a standard procedure to report
adverse events from vaccinations.
Having observed that
humans got lifetime immunity from most of their childhood
vaccines, Professor Ronald D. Schultz, head of pathobiology at
Wisconsin University, applied the same logic to dogs. He
vaccinated them for rabies, parvo, kennel cough and distemper
and then exposed them to the disease-causing organisms after
three, five and seven years. The animals remained healthy,
validating his hunch. He continued his experiment by measuring
antibody levels in the dogs' blood nine and 15 years after
vaccination. He found the levels sufficient to prevent
However, I would humbly suggest that
vaccinating your dogs or cats every three years is probably
still over-vaccination. The same logic applies as with yearly
boosters: circulating antibodies are merely going to cancel
out the vaccine challenge. Rather, the three-year guideline is
probably a political concession, mooted by academics to pacify
vets who stand to lose a lot if they lose booster income.
But apart from spending money unnecessarily, what else
does over-vaccination do for you and your dogs?
Merck Manual offers some words of caution. It is produced by a
giant vaccine manufacturer called Merck, and it's the animal
doctor's bible. Under childhood immunization, Merck states
that patients with B and/or T cell immunodeficiencies, or from
families with B and/or T cell immunodeficiencies, should not
receive live virus vaccines due to the risk of fatality (i.e.
death). Merck describes features of B and T cell
immunodeficiencies as inhalant allergies, food allergies,
eczema, dermatitis, neurological deterioration and heart
disease. Does this describe any of your dogs?
under the care of good doctors and nurses ask parents whether
any of the above conditions exist in a family and, if they do,
they refrain from administering live virus vaccines (which is
what we give to our dogs). So you can't get away from one
fact: you could kill your dog (who also has B and T cells) if
your dog or his line suffers from any of the above conditions,
and you inject live virus vaccines into him. Logically, it
makes sense to repeat the vaccine risk as infrequently as you
But vaccines are not simply implicated
in fatalities. I have found many studies that link vaccines in
with a wide range of diseases.
Conjunctivitis: a study
was conducted by Frick and Brooks in 1983, involving two
groups of dogs with a predisposition to suffer atopic
dermatitis. One group of dogs was exposed to an allergen
(pollen) and then vaccinated. They did not develop atopic
dermatitis. The second group was vaccinated before being
exposed to pollen. This group did develop atopic dermatitis,
as well as conjunctivitis. The study therefore shows that
vaccines sensitize, triggering an allergic state, of which
conjunctivitis, as well as atopic dermatitis, are symptoms.
This explains why Canine Health Concern's (CHC's)
vaccine survey, involving over 4,000 dogs, should find that
56.9% of all dogs in the survey with conjunctivitis first
developed it within three months of a vaccine shot, and 61.2%
of dogs with skin problems first manifested symptoms within
this crucial timeframe. Our premise is that if the vaccine has
no bearing on subsequent illness, then only 25% of all
illnesses should begin within each three-month period of the
year. Please bear in mind that, across the board, most
conditions began within a week of the shot.
Gastro-intestinal problems: I am sure you are aware of
the controversy surrounding the MMR vaccine and the assertion
of scientists in the UK and the USA that the vaccine causes
irritable bowel syndrome/Crohn's disease. My own research
indicates that inflammation of the gastro-intestinal tract is
a byproduct of the vaccine process, rather than being
associated with a specific vaccine, although the practice of
injecting a number of different viruses at one time may have a
bearing. CHC's vaccine survey found that 2.7% of all dogs
surveyed had colitis, with 56.9% of cases occurring within
three months post-vaccination.
The Concise Oxford
Veterinary Dictionary states that Type I hypersensitivity
reactions are brought about by an antigen reacting with tissue
mast cells bearing specific antibodies on their membranes.
This releases substances which cause inflammation. The signs
of Type I hypersensitivity vary with the species affected, but
can include bronchial constriction, diarrhea, vomiting,
salivation, abdominal pain, and cyanosis. (The word
'inflammation' is key in the vaccine debate.)
paper prepared by R. Brooks of the Commonwealth Serum
Laboratories Limited for the Australian Veterinary Journal
(October 1991), entitled 'Adverse reactions to canine and
feline vaccines', systemic reactions to vaccines are
Under Type I hypersensitivity, the paper
shows that clinical signs in dogs include an initial
restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea and dyspnea. Brooks tells us
that some cases can progress to collapse and death.
a top level guide, inflammatory (allergic) type reactions
post-vaccination can be explained by research conducted by Dr.
Larry Glickman, and Dr. Harm Hogenesch at Purdue University,
although there is a good deal of other research to choose
from. Their paper was presented at the International
Veterinary Vaccines and Diagnostics Conference, 1997.
The team studied the effects of routinely used
vaccination protocol on the immune and endocrine system of
Beagles. One control group was not vaccinated and the other
group was vaccinated with a commercial multivalent vaccine at
8, 10, 12, 16 and 20 weeks of age, and with a rabies vaccine
at 16 weeks of age.
The vaccinated group developed
significant levels of autoantibodies of fibronectin, laminim,
DNA, albumin, Cytochrome C, transferring, cardiolipin, and
collagen. This indicates that, when vaccinated, dogs begin to
attack their own biochemistry: they become allergic to
themselves. Dr. William R. La Rosa of the sponsoring Hayward
Foundation remarked, "... speculation must be that something
in the vaccine is one of the etiologies (in the genetically
susceptible dog) of such diseases as cardiomyopathy, lupus,
erythematosus, glomerulonephritis, etc."
in the CHC survey, for example, was that 53.7% of dogs with
kidney damage first developed the condition within three
months of a shot. This is hardly surprising when one looks at
the Purdue study, since one of the biochemicals being attacked
post vaccination is laminin - and laminin coats kidney cells.
Similarly, autoantibodies to collagen might explain
the locomotor conditions recorded against cats and dogs in a
veterinary practice record survey conducted by the vet Ilse
Pedler. Vaccine components have also been found in the bones
of arthritic patients, and other studies show that vaccines
We need also to be alarmed that the
Purdue study showed that vaccinated dogs develop
autoantibodies to their own DNA, indicating that vaccines
cause genetic damage, and we must question the point of
scientific research that looks for genetic defects in our dogs
when we are constantly introducing new defects with vaccines.
A high number of behavioral problems were found to
arise post-vaccination by Ilse Pedler, as well as in the CHC
survey. In the CHC survey, 73.1% of dogs with short attention
spans first developed this condition in the crucial post-shot
period; 72.5% developed nervous/worrying dispositions; and
64.9% began to display behavioral problems.
Encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, is a known
and accepted possible sequel to vaccination. The Merck Manual
states, for example, "In acute disseminated encephalomyelitis
(post infectious encephalitis), demyelination can occur
spontaneously, but usually follows a viral infection or
inoculation (or very rarely, a bacterial vaccine), suggesting
an immunologic cause." This points to a connection between
encephalitis and behavioral problems in both humans and
It is interesting that Ilse Pedler noted
spinal pain in her survey of practice records, since Merck
states that many encephalitides extend to involve the spinal
Ilse Pedler also noticed the onset of epilepsy
in animals post-vaccination. Indeed, this merely corroborates
our own research, which recorded 73.1% of dogs with epilepsy
developing it within three months of a vaccine event. Merck
lists epilepsy as a symptom of encephalitis. I wonder how many
vets think to report post-vaccinal epilepsy to the VMD's
adverse events surveillance scheme?
Intervet has been quoted at public meetings, and in the press,
claiming that epilepsy is not vaccine-induced. Conversely,
Merck lists epilepsy as a symptom of encephalitis, and
vaccines as a cause of encephalitis.
Pedler also found
a number of injection site reactions in dogs. 81.1% of dogs
reported to have a tumor or growth at vaccine site in the CHC
survey first developed the tumor within the three-month
Collapse was also reported by
Pedler, and anaphylactic shock is an accepted possible sequel
to vaccination. Anaphylactic shock can lead to death unless
adrenaline is administered immediately.
These are but
some of the studies linking vaccines to life-changing or
life-threatening illnesses. Dr. Jean Dodds, an American vet
and researcher, has also written a number of scientific papers
to illustrate the correlation between MLV vaccines and a rise
in immune- and blood-mediated diseases such as cancer, leukemia, autoimmune
hemolytic anemia, thyroid disease, and
There appear to be two factors preventing
drastic changes in vaccine policies for companion animals. The
first is that vets have been taught that annual vaccination is
necessary, and tie-ins between academic teaching
establishments and the veterinary pharmaceutical industry, as
well as lost practice income, slow the pace of change.
The second factor is fear: we dog lovers are used to
relying upon the advice of our vets - who surely are more
knowledgeable than us - and we are frightened of exposing our
animals to infectious disease.