First, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the vaccine survey over the past year-and-a-half. Reactions ranging from mild (localized swelling at the vaccine site) to moderate (generalized edema of the face and body) were reported for the following vaccines:
Some owners reported additional side-effects which they believed were directly associated with the administration of the vaccine (symptoms of disease they were vaccinating against, break-through infections, seizures, and anaphylactic shock). Some breeders did report a familial preponderance for vaccine reaction in that they had observed that offspring produced from individuals who demonstrated hypersensitivity to vaccination had a greater likelihood to also demonstrate hypersensitivity. Some breeders used prophylactic treatment with anithistamines prior to vaccination to reduce incidence of reaction in offspring considered to be at higher risk. Interestingly, hereditary tendency toward adverse reaction was reportedly independent of particular vaccine brand or type. That is, although the sire or dam may have reacted to an individual vaccine, the offspring may have tolerated that same vaccine, but demonstrated adverse reactions to another vaccine.
While conducting material research to write this article, in addition to clinical research articles, I also took the time to read some of the debated issues concerning vaccines which appeared on the internet. There seem to be a growing number of individuals in the dog community who are opposing the use of vaccines as preventative medicine against canine disease based on reports of adverse reactions and illness associated with this procedure. At the heart of the controversy is a book that purports statistical evidence that vaccines are actually more harmful than good. I will not attempt to refute any of the claims that the author makes, however, I will point out the following: Book publications do not undergo the intense scrutiny of peer-review prior to publication that is required of medical research and clinical journal articles, and in conducting a search of this author's credentials, I found it interesting that there was an obvious lack of history of peer-reviewed articles published by this author supporting any of the statistical claims.
Perhaps it is my anti-extremist attitude, however, I believe that one must look at both sides of an argument prior to making an educated decision, and in terms of vaccinating, this decision should take into consideration the risk to benefit ratio. Therefore, based on the material that I have reviewed, I do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that vaccines, in general, are harmful. Like most drugs and treatments, they do, however, have their limitations both in terms of effectiveness and safety, and these limitations are governed by variables which are dependent upon both intrinsic (health, genetic predisposition, underlying illness of the immunized host) and extrinsic (correct use, storage, preparation, potential vaccine-component interactions) factors.
Admittedly, up until March of 1997, when someone voiced a concern about the potential for vaccine reaction, I was apathetic to the issue: vaccine reactions are usually mild, often go unnoted, and those that are noticed occur at such a low frequency that many long-time breeders have never reported observing reactions and individuals employed in veterinary medicine rarely, if ever, treat such reactions. In contrast, infectious canine diseases like parvo are seen and treated frequently in veterinary clinics. However, in March of 1997 when one of my own Labs became a statistic of a severe anaphylactic reaction immediately following a yearly booster vaccine, I became more sensitive to the potential risks. Despite my own experience with one of my Labs, I would not consider abandoning the practice of vaccinating my other dogs--although "vaccine time" does become a particularly anxiety-provoking interlude around my house. However, where I had previously taken the safety of modern day vaccines for granted, the experience has instilled in me the need to critically reassess current canine vaccination procedures. Therefore, with the intention to inform and, thereby, hopefully reduce potential risks that other dog owners may encounter when vaccinating their own dogs, I have put together this article to emphasize the importance of vaccines in the control of canine infectious disease while addressing various factors which may present limitations to safe and effective immunization.
'Copyright 1998 Pamela A. Davol'