In the light of a not-very-recent pronouncement from a doctor that vaccination in humans caused autism, pet owners who love their pets are asking me related questions with increasing frequency.

Many clients of mine through the years are concerned about how many vaccines for specific cases of infectious diseases are being scrutinized as to their effectiveness in terms of antibody formation as well as the risks: common reactions and even life-threatening ones, such as anaphylactic shock.

It’s time to reassure the pet-loving public that they have more to gain if they have their dogs and cats vaccinated.

Some vaccines allow the recipient to get a milder form of infection for the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against serious infections. [Other types mimic microbial antigens, fooling the body into producing antibodies even without an actual infection. – Ed.]

So why do people say vaccination carries more risks than benefits? Who is being misled, and by whom? Why the great confusion?

Risks versus Benefits

The doctor previously alluded to had published a now-retracted paper in the medical journal Lancet. [Former doctor Andrew Wakefield was removed from the UK medical register because of his fraudulent journal paper on the alleged link between vaccination and autism. His 1998 study was retracted, with no credible research thereafter ever proving any association between vaccines and autism. -Ed.]

In truth, vaccines have never been proven to cause autism. Because of this twelve-children study, California now has a measles epidemic. Emeritus Professor Dr. Richard B. Ford, a veterinarian collaborating closely with Physicians in America, said that hasty pronouncements could lead to disastrous consequences. According to a 2018 news report from Nagaland Post, “An investigation into the 1998 study also uncovered a number of problems with how it was conducted. The journal that published it eventually retracted it. That meant the publication no longer stood by the results.”

Veterinarians should be judicious in following a set of guidelines. Every country’s vaccination protocol should be written with the three in mind:

1. The virulence (harmfulness) of the infectious agent
2. The individual’s level of immunity
3. Environmental factors, such as hygiene, herd immunity (number of immunized animals versus those that aren’t) and the degree of viral contamination in any given location), to name a few.

Medical Misinformation

The experiments in the study were repeated and it turned out to be a dud! Unfortunately, there are people, labeled by the study’s author as belonging to the anti-vaccine group, who adhere to a dogmatic view that vaccines are risky, and that humans and animals can always resist infection through natural means.

According to a 2015 article by Michael Rieder and Joan Robinson published in Paediatrics & Child Health, “A growing antivaccine movement in Canada and elsewhere is hearing more about an unproven homeopathic therapy, ‘nosodes’, as an alternative to routine vaccines. The present statement defines nosodes and describes limitations for their use in children. There is scant evidence in the medical literature for either the efficacy or safety of nosodes, which have not been well studied for the prevention of any infectious disease in humans. Recommendations to change the labelling on these products to reflect such limitations are made.”

The Ensuing Confusion

The third question I proffered was, “Why the great confusion?” It’s a pretty simple question that does not have a straightforward answer.

There is an issue over which vaccines should be considered core versus non-core. Core vaccines are those that are used to immunize pets from incurable, progressively fatal diseases. Non-core vaccines may be given to confer immunity to an animal but they offer protection against diseases that are not at all fatal.

However, just because they are not fatal does not mean we should turn a blind eye or shrug them off! These infections are still a menace to the health of our pets and must not be taken lightly.

While it may be true that there cases of over-vaccination in other countries, this assertion finds little support in the Philippines where only the anti-rabies vaccine is the only one considered well-known to most Filipinos. You may disagree with me in this area parents, they come across distemper only when their dogs are already in danger of dying from it. By then, it would have been too late. They may survive the clinical disease episode, but not without great financial as well as emotional cost, not to mention adverse effects on the health of their pets.

No to self-medication

I urge every pet owner and shelter owner to please refrain from self-vaccinating animals for any purpose. I will stay true to my ethical standards by not teaching you to buy vaccines online or get them illegally.

And I shall quote Republic Act 1071, which regulates the sale of veterinary biologics and medicinal preparations: “It shall be unlawful for any agency or store or sell to the public veterinary biologics and medicinal preparations other than registered pharmacies or drugstores (boticas), biological laboratories, veterinary clinics and government veterinary agencies.”

Please go to a veterinarian to seek competent, professional help. For your beloved pets, there is no other doctor but the vet.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s December 2018 issue.