Questions to Ask your Veterinarian about Vaccinations

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

When you take your kitten in for their first appointment and those after, you will most likely be pressured to vaccinate unless you are using a truly holistic and/or natural rearing veterinarian. Here are some basic questions to ask your vet not only to educate yourself but to see if your vet is knowledgeable and qualified outside a veterinary degree to vaccinate your companion.

Do you believe in informed consent?

-The answer should be yes which means you have a right first to all the possible information on a vaccine, pros and cons as well as the right to say "yes, vaccinate my pet" or "no, do not vaccinate my pet" Your vet should not do anything without your knowledge or explicit consent.

Using an Appeal to Authority (because an authority thinks something, it must, therefore, be true) or Appeal to Emotion (attempting to manipulate an emotional response in place of a valid or compelling argument such as your pet will die) is not a reason to blindly accept what the vet has to say.

Do you administer multiple vaccines in one visit?

-In many cases information is not usually available on the safety and efficacy from the use of vaccines with other vaccine. This information can be found on the vaccine insert

-If vaccinating, multiple vaccines or combo vaccines (4 in 1 for example) can reduce the supposed immunity vaccines provide

-Studies have shown multiple vaccines given at the same time increases the likelihood of adverse reactions (1, 2, 3)

Do you administer the same dose of vaccine to a St. Bernard or another large breed animal?

-Most will say yes, but this is inappropriate.

-Adverse reactions are seen more often in small animals receiving the same doses as large animals (4, 5)

Are vaccines 100% protective?

-The answer should be no. There are too many factors to account for like:

-Immunity from mom (if present it will cancel out the vaccine)

-Your companion may just not be responsive

-If your companion already has antibodies in the body through natural exposure or previous vaccination

-If they are already harboring the illness

-Vaccines are administered in an unnatural manner that your companion probably won't experience naturally therefore not providing the exact protection

There are no tests to determine any of these factors

Do you as a veterinarian get titer tests?

-Veterinarians do get titer tests to see if they are covered for such things as rabies and need to be revaccinated (6)

Do you titer test companion animals? If so, what is the cost in comparison to a vaccine? In comparison to other blood tests?

-Many vets still don't titer test, or if they do, put a hefty price tag on it often a few hundred dollars compared to a vaccine that is maybe $15-$30

-Other blood tests including a full chemistry will be less than a titer test at most vets.

When/in what situations should you NOT vaccinate?

  • Only healthy cats should be vaccinated as stated in the vaccine inserts

  • Have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past

  • Have other allergies

  • Have HIV

  • Have cancer

  • Are Sick

  • Are stressed (which includes trips to the vet, pregnant, nursing, sick, depressed, new event at home like a new baby, moving, rehoming, surgery etc. etc.)

  • Pets with parasites

  • Are taking medicines that can affect the immune system (pharmaceutical drugs or medications, flea, tick, parasite or deworming products etc.)

  • Those with poor nutrition or inappropriate diets such as commercial dry and wet foods

  • If they are pregnant or lactating queens

  • Those with immunocompromised owners

  • If your veterinarian disagrees, ask to see the vaccine inserts which clearly states only healthy animals should be vaccinated.

How often should you vaccinate?

-There is a discrepancy as to which vaccines are recommended and what the vaccine schedule is. There are no universal recommendations or schedules. (7) The AAHA website itself states “… there is no data indicating a specific revaccination interval…" (8) The AAHA OR American Animal Hospital Association is a non-profit organization for companion animal veterinary hospitals. It is the only accrediting body for small animal hospitals in the U.S.

How/where do you report a vaccine reaction?

"In veterinary medicine, there is no requirement to report adverse events (known or suspected) following vaccination" (9)

Vaccine Manufacture: Companies that manufacture vaccines maintain a technical services section that will accept and address adverse event reports from veterinarians who use their product(s). Veterinarians are encouraged to report adverse events to the manufacturer(s) prior to contacting the appropriate regulatory agency. Manufacturers are required to maintain files of any reported vaccine adverse event.

USDA's Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB):

Subsequent to reporting a known or suspected vaccine adverse event to the manufacturer, veterinarians practicing within the United States may contact the USDA, APHIS CVB in one of the following ways:

Online: Adverse Event Electronic Report Form.

By fax or mail: Download the pdf form (17kb) and FAX to (515) 337-6120 or by mail to the CVB.

By telephone: Adverse events may also be reported by calling the CVB at (800) 752-6255.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)'s Canadian Centre for Veterinary Biologics (CCVB): Veterinarians practicing within Canada should notify the CCVB of suspected adverse events related to veterinary biologics. This can be done by notifying CCVB directly or through the licensed vaccine manufacturer or importer.

Do you know ALL the vaccine reactions of each vaccine you administer?

Do you know what ingredients are in vaccines and the side effects they cause? And does this information come directly from the manufacturer, sales representative, vaccine insert or studies or other?

-Remember most ingredients are proprietary so they will be not publicly available however ingredients can and do include:

  • Aluminum

  • Mercury

  • Oil

  • Paraffin oil

  • Patented polymers

  • Acrylics

  • Antibiotics (e.g. gentamycin, polymyxin, amphoteracin B, neomycin, aureomycin, tylosine, natamycine)

  • Salts

  • Casein hydrolysate

  • Collagen hydrolysate

  • Sorbitol

  • Sucrose

  • Dextrin

  • Squalene

  • Saponin and derivatives

  • Unspecified surfactants

  • Cholesterol

  • Ovalbumen (egg white)

  • γ-irradiated canine blood serum

  • Canine red blood cells

  • Phosphatidylcholine

  • Formaldehyde

  • Patented oil/surfactant mixes and gelatin.

  • Fragments from cell cultures which include animal tissues (e.g. baby hamster kidney cells).

Ingredient information including what they are and reactions they cause can be found at numerous sources including government websites (10, 11)

How long after a vaccine is given can a reaction occur?

-It could be immediately or five years down the road (12, 13)

What are several adverse reactions that can occur?

Common Reactions:

  • Lethargy

  • Hair Loss, Hair Color Change at Injection Site

  • Fever

  • Soreness

  • Stiffness

  • Refusal to Eat

  • Conjunctivitis

  • Sneezing

  • Oral ulcers

Moderate Reactions:

  • Immunosuppression

  • Behavioral Changes

  • Vitiligo

  • Weight Loss (Cachexia)

  • Reduced Milk Production

  • Lameness

  • Granulomas/Abscesses

  • Hives

  • Facial Edema

  • Atopy

  • Respiratory Disease

  • Allergic uveitis (Blue Eye)

Severe Reactions triggered by Vaccines:

  • Vaccine injection site sarcomas

  • Anaphylaxis

  • Arthritis, polyarthritis-HOD hypertrophy Osteodystrophy

  • Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

  • Immune Mediated thrombocytopenia (IMTP)

  • Hemolytic Disease of the newborn (Neonatal Isoerythrolysis)

  • Thyroiditis

  • Glomerulonephritis

  • Disease or Enhanced Disease which with the vaccine was designed to prevent

  • Myocarditis

  • Postvaccinal Encephalitis or polyneuritis

  • Seizures

  • Abortion, congenital anomalies, embryonic/fetal death, failure to conceive fertility (14)

Can you over vaccinate?

-Yes. Over vaccinating is any time an animal doesn't need to be vaccinated (15, 16)

What are signs of over vaccination? -see What are several adverse reactions that can occur?

How does the immune system work? Invaders and foreign organisms need to 1. Get passed the skin and membranes 2. Get passed antibodies and organisms that detect invaders 3. Get passed Broad spectrum defenses that attack anything foreign 4. Get passed specific defenses targeted to the specific invader 5. Get passed memory cells that are stronger and quicker at identifying foreign invaders that has been in the body prior

Key Players include:

  1. The Bone marrow and thymus, the primary organs in the immune system

  2. Helper T lymphocytes send chemical messages to help white cells perform their job.

  3. Macrophages call in the troops to fight the invader. Combined with the intel from helper T cells, invaders are marked and identified, the proper chemicals are secreted, and the specific branch of the immune system is activated.

  4. Various cells (T cells, cytotoxic T cells, NK cells, macrophage and B cells) fight the invader to destroy and remember them for future attacks.

For more in-depth information please read the blog on the Immune System

How do you gain immunity?

-Immunity is gained when a foreign invader is identified by the body's immune systems and memory cells which illicit and attack through various systems, organs and cells who perform specific jobs and task to destroy foreign invaders. When the attack is successful memory cells remember the invader for the future. A health immune system should have little problem gaining immunity or will require very little outside supportive care.

Will you be responsible for paying for my pet's medical care should they be injured by a vaccine?

If your vet says yes to the above…

Would you sign such a statement attesting to the same?

Can vaccines be ineffective in some animals?

-Yes -Immunity from mom if present will cancel out the vaccine -Your companion may just not be responsive -If your companion already has antibodies in the body -If they are already harboring the illness -Idiopathic reasons

What percent efficacy is this vaccine?

FeLV - 70% efficient

Rabies- 92%- 97.4%(17, 18, 19)

FIV 89% against subtype-B tier-3 FIVFC1, 61% against recombinant subtype-A/B tier-2 FIVBang, 62% against recombinant subtype-F'/C tier-3 FIVNZ1, and 40% against subtype-A tier-2 FIVUK8 (20)

Chlamydia-"Little information is available concerning onset of immunity after C felis vaccine administration" (21, 22, 23)

*Note this vaccine REDUCES the symptoms of chlamydia it does not prevent or cure chlamydia Any potential protection only lasts for 6 months Bordetella- "No information is available on the safety and efficacy from the use of this vaccine with any other. It is therefore recommended that no other vaccine should be administered within 14 days before or after vaccination with the product."(24)

"In cats, the mechanisms for immunity against B bronichiseptica after IN [Intranasal] vaccination have not been determined"(25)

"Throughout this period there has been controversy about the relative efficacy of these vaccines in stimulating primary protective immune responses and in their comparative utility as "booster shots" (26)

FIP - 75-85% (27)