The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) became the first national veterinary organization to support efforts by Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (KSVDL) to improve rabies testing with a modified screening test to determine if veterinary patients need to receive rabies booster vaccinations to maintain protective immunity.
The AHVMA and its members have long expressed concern over animal vaccination practices. While vaccinations provide important protection against a wide number of serious diseases, they can also cause adverse effects ranging from minor discomfort, autoimmune disorders and even death on rare occasions.
Recent research at the Rabies Challenge Fund suggests immunity from rabies vaccination lasts much longer than the usual one to three year interval required by current laws. This study added significant evidence that we may be over vaccinating for rabies in our pet population. Public health officials have expressed concern that reducing vaccination for rabies could increase the incidence of this deadly disease. To date legislatures and public health agencies have resisted changing rabies vaccination laws to reflect current knowledge about rabies vaccine duration of protection.
Rabies vaccinations can be associated with a number of significant, well documented adverse effects. These include localized swelling and pain, fever, chronic hair loss, ulcerative dermatitis, encephalitis, vasculitis, seizures, vaccine related cancer and anaphylactic shock. Pet guardians whose animals have suffered such illness are very concerned about revaccination. If they fail to keep the vaccination current based upon current legal requirements, they may be penalized in several ways depending upon existing legal statutes. KSVDL recently announced the modification of the established rabies antibody test (Rapid Fluorescent Focus Inhibition Test) to rapidly screen immunity to rabies virus. Once properly vaccinated, such testing can be used to identify if the individual has an antibody level indicative of protection from rabies.
If an animal undergoes testing and is found to have adequate protection, the AHVMA supports reform of public health laws that require automatic revaccination. Such booster vaccinations may not be medically necessary. This new testing procedure allows screening for continued rabies vaccine response. This allows veterinarians and pet guardians to effectively decide upon a path that reduces risks of an adverse effect for individual animals while protecting any public health concerns.