Vaccination FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions – Vaccination

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See also: Vaccination

See also: Boosters

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Q. What is Vaccination?

A. Vaccination is the technique of stimulating specific immunity to certain infectious diseases by the introduction of antigenic material from those diseases. The term stems from Jenner's use of Cow Pox infection to stimulate immunity to Small Pox in humans, a closely-related virus (Latin: vacca – a cow).

Q. Against which diseases can we vaccinate our dogs, cats and horses?

A.  In the UK, dogs can be vaccinated against Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis (canicola and icterohaemorrhgiae), Parainfluenza (Kennel Cough), Bordetella (Kennel Cough) and Tetanus. In the USA there are Lyme Disease and Giardia vaccines. Dogs travelling abroad must be given Rabies vaccine. Cats may be given Panleucopaenia (a.k.a. Enteritis), Rhinotracheitis (FVR, Herpes), Calicivirus (FCV), Chlamydia, Bordetella and Leukaemia (Leucosis, FeLV). Cats travelling abroad must be given Rabies vaccine. Horses are commonly given Influenza and Tetanus vaccines. They may also be given Herpes, Arteritis and Strangles (Streptococcus equi). Rabbits may be given Myxomatosis and Haemorrhagic Disease vaccine.

Q. Can the different disease portions be given separately?

A. There is limited capability of separating the vaccine components, as a result of formulation and packaging of products. It depends on the products stocked by a particular veterinary practice. In dogs, the Leptospirosis vaccine can easily be given separately. Rabies is separate. The Bordetella vaccine is usually intranasal and is therefore separate anyway. In cats, the FeLV and Bordetella can be given separately. Rabies is separate. In horses, Tetanus and Influenza (usually combined) can be separated.

Q. A vaccine contains bacterial, viral or other ‘antigenic' material – are other materials included?

A. A range of ‘other' substances may be included in animal vaccines, some obscurely named and without clear explanation. A quickly assembled list of current ingredients of dog, cat and horse vaccines (any of which may be incorporated in the dose your animal receives) includes: aluminium, 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, phosphatidyl choline, formaldehyde, patented oil/surfactant mixes and gelatin. Also not specified are remnants of the cell cultures (see below) on which the viruses are grown in the laboratory. These are from animal tissues (e.g. baby hamster kidney cells). It is worth running an impartial internet search on some of these substances. However, when subjecting your animal to vaccination, it is not simple to discern which particular adjuvants and ancillary substances may be involved in that particular dose. Even your vet is unlikely to know without actively researching the subject and manufacturers may not be very open.

Q. Are all vaccine ingredients openly declared?

A.  Most vaccine data sheets include a list of ingredients. However, there are products for which this is not the case. Some vaccines are simply described as “adjuvanted“, with no mention of the agent used. One particular cat vaccine is described as “an inactivated vaccine“, with no mention of adjuvants or preservatives. It is also described as “a milky pink solution“. This would suggest some form of emulsified ingredient, perhaps also colouring. None is mentioned in this section, only the antigenic components are declared. However, in the ‘Warnings' section at the bottom of the document, this passage appears, as a warning to human operators: “This product contains mineral oil. Even if small amounts have been injected, accidental injection of this product can cause intense swelling, which may, for example, result in ischaemic necrosis and even the loss of a digit. Expert, PROMPT, surgical attention is required and may necessitate early incision and irrigation ….“.

Q. Do animal vaccines contain Mercury?

A.  Two organomercuric compounds  (e.g. thiomersal a.k.a. thimerosal and sodium timerfonate) appear in the list of possible ‘additives' that are added to vaccine products. They are included for antibacterial purposes and are said to be at harmless inclusion rates. However, there is no safe dose of mercury. These compounds are usually added to the liquid ‘diluent' portion of the vaccine (i.e. the Leptospirosis portion of a dog vaccine). The freeze-dried living virus portion of a vaccine has to be diluted with this liquid so, although it is now claimed that most dog vaccines do not contain mercury, it is sadly true that most actual doses do contain mercury.

Q. Do animal vaccines contain Aluminium?

A. Aluminium is added to many killed (inactivated) vaccines, as an adjuvant. Some Rabies vaccine injections contain both aluminium and mercury.

Q. Is it safe?

A. No manufacturer will guarantee the safety of vaccination. Quite apart from dangerous and life-threatening anaphyllactic reactions, that can occur within hours of the injection, transient fevers and malaise and injection site lumps or abscesses, there can be chronic, late-onset problems. As a referral centre, dealing mainly with troublesome chronic disease, our own research suggests that over 80% of chronic illness that we see starts within three months of a vaccination event. Such problems include skin problems, allergy, atopy, autoimmune problems, heart murmur, meningitis, encephalitis, paralysis, nervousness, excitability, epilepsy and seizures, CDRM, cardiomyopathy, colitis, chronic diarrhoea, ear problems, ‘virus' in horses, sarcoid, COPD and headshaking. It may even be that syringomyelia may be triggered by vaccination. Proving an association in any single case is not possible but the overall statistics are frightening.

While the assertion that vaccination can be harmful is generally not well-received and often dismissed, there is a disease acknowledged to result from a specific vaccine: Rabies Vaccine Induced Ischaemic Dermatopathy. If one such disease can be accepted, it is not difficult to open one's mind to the possibility of more.

It is interesting to note that an article (ADVERSE EVENTS DIAGNOSED WITHIN THREE DAYS OF VACCINE ADMINISTRATION IN DOGS, 10/1/05 JAVMA Scientific Report) states “Factors known to cause vaccine reactions include the primary vaccine agent or antigen, adjuvants, preservatives, stabilizers, and residues from tissue cultures used in vaccine production.

Q. Can vaccine cause autoimmune diseases?

A. Manufacturers assert that this is impossible. However, a possible causative link could arise from the inclusion of animal tissues in vaccination. Tissue cultures used in vaccine production include nervous tissue, green monkey kidney tissue, dog kidney tissue (from puppy), hamster kidney tissue, bovine kidney tissue, duck embryo and chick embryo. Many human vaccines are grown on human diploid cells, derived from the lungs of aborted human foetuses (fetuses). Might there be a connection with human asthma?

Q. Is it safer just to give the Leptospirosis vaccine to my dog?

A. Sadly, it is the Leptospirosis portion of vaccines that contains the mercury, aluminium or other adjuvants and additives. Leptospirosis vaccine is also the one about which most doubt exists about efficacy. It is possible that any induced immunity does not even last the year between annual doses.

Q. Is it safer to give a ‘killed' or ‘inactivated' vaccine than to give a living ‘attenuated' vaccine?

A. In contrast to the opinions of many, the AVMC believes that both have dangers, differentiation between and comparison of which is virtually impossible. The living vaccines can give rise to live virus ‘shedding' to in-contact individuals, may give rise to reactions to the tissue culture components (e.g. autoimmunity, cancer etc.), may be contaminated with latent viruses and may cause disease in certain individuals (e.g. distemper was given to a group of ferrets by vaccination with distemper vaccine – Carpenter JW, Appel MJ, Erickson RC, Novilla MN. Fatal vaccine-induced canine distemper virus infection in black-footed ferrets. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1976 Nov 1;169(9):961–964 – Killed vaccines generally contain a range of noxious adjuvants, excipients and other materials, which can give rise to serious reactions (e.g. mercury and aluminium but see above for the long list) and they contain tissue fragments from the original culture from which they were derived.

Q. Are rumours of safety problems the product of scaremongering?

A. The conventional world is finding it difficult to face the possibility that vaccination, the ‘holy cow' of preventive medicine, may be more dangerous than beneficial. Yes, vaccination has reduced the incidence of terrible diseases like distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis. However, there may be a hidden cost, not yet accepted by the mainstream veterinary community. No one wants to see the return of widespread distemper or parvovirus infections but we need to understand what risks are involved with vaccination.

Q. Surely the 2006 ‘POOCH' study by the Animal Health Trust dispelled any fears?

A. The ‘POOCH' study ( appeared to be engineered to counter the published data that 80% of chronic disease starts within three months of a vaccine event. We publish a link here, in the interests of impartiality. However, that study did not attempt to measure the actual onset of chronic disease, only the statistical association of disease with repeated vaccine events. It therefore failed to address the fundamental issue. Establishing the precise start date of chronic disease requires a very specialized approach and methodology and our data, far from being provided by ourselves, was derived from the information supplied to us by referring vets. It is therefore quite without bias.

Q. I only give the puppy course and then stop vaccinations – is this safe?

A. Sadly, the acute-onset problems and the chronic issues can be set up by even the very first vaccine event, in a susceptible individual. We have even witnessed puppy and kitten deaths after the first dose.

Q. Is annual boosting (re-vaccination) necessary?

A. The annual booster is a habit of relatively recent origin and quite without any scientific foundation. There is nothing magical or momentous about the anniversary of a vaccine event (except that some health problems can recur at that time, even if the vaccine is not repeated).

Q, Is it possible to test immunity, prior to deciding to re-vaccinate?

A. There is a belief that antibody testing, prior to re-vaccination, is a worthwhile test of immunity. Certainly, if antibodies are present, there is valid immunity. If no circulating antibodies are demonstrable, however, it tells us nothing. The animal may still be immune. In our opinion, this test is not a valid decider for whether to re-vaccinate (boost) or not.

Q. What are continuous cell cultures or tissue cultures?

A. These are colonies of cells that have been ‘immortalised' so that they can grow indefinitely in a laboratory. They are patented and highly profitable (the market has been estimated at $30 billion p.a. and rapidly growing). They are the product of genetic engineering and oncogenic (tumour- or cancer-forming) DNA may be involved in their production, since cancer cells overcome the normal built-in ‘mortality' of healthy tissue cells. One cat vaccine in the USA is known to cause tumours (sarcoma) at the site of injection. The ‘human diploid cell' vaccines produced for human use are derived from lung tissue from aborted human foetuses (fetuses).

Q. What is an adjuvant?

A. An adjuvant is a device for enhancing the immune response to vaccination, thus reducing the perceived necessary dose and the perceived necessary number of vaccinations. It is not always clear exactly what material has been added for adjuvant purposes but oil, squalene, saponins, polymers, aluminium etc. are often used for this purpose.

Q. Are there any restrictions?

A. All vaccines have wording to the effect that ‘only healthy animals should be vaccinated'. Some vaccines are contraindicated in pregnancy.

Q. Why does a Chihuahua pup require the same dose as an adult Great Dane? How can this be safe?

A. The party line on this is that the same antigenic dose is required for any size of animal, in order to generate immunity. However, even if this were true, there are the other substances included in vaccinations, the safety or dangers of which must be governed by dose/body-weight relationships. There is no safe dose rate for mercury, for instance, yet a Chihuahua pup receives the same dose as an adult Great Dane. As our American cousins might say, ‘go figure'. It is interesting that NOAH has used the same breed examples in their own FAQ paper.

Q. Are there different breed susceptibilities to vaccination?

A. It appears that, with the obvious exception of the vaccination-site sarcomas in cats, that horses and dogs are more susceptible to a spectrum of chronic illness following vaccination.

Q. Are there different species susceptibilities to vaccination?

A. Certainly, we see increased incidence of possibly vaccine-related illness (vaccinosis) in certain breeds (e.g. Cavaliers and German Shepherds) but this may be a reflection of their poor innate immune stability and robustness.

Q. How does a veterinary practice choose its ‘brand' of vaccine?

A. Sadly, our veterinary training does not really equip us to compare rival manufacturers' vaccine products effectively and meaningfully. The likely result is that choice of brand may be decided by offered incentives.

Q. Is there an alternative to vaccination?

A. There is an alternative in the form of homeoprophylactic Nosodes (a side-shoot of homeopathy – the so-called ‘homeopathic alternative'). However, the efficacy of nosodes remains unproven by any current scientifically-accepted criteria. My own dogs, cats and horses, however, are only protected in this way, having never received conventional vaccinations. To our knowledge, our dog has withstood contact with an active parvovirus case and an active distemper case. Our cats come into contact, almost daily, with deadly viruses brought by feline patients to our premises. In 40 years, at the time of writing, they have not fallen prey to any virus infections, despite non-vaccination and contact with local cats, both feral and domestic. Most of our clients cease their animal's vaccinations, without ill effect and many start their pups on a homeoprophylactic regime alone. In fact, recently, a litter of Vizslas contacted Parvovirus at five weeks of age, just after having started their course of the ‘alternative'. All survived.

Q. If annual vaccination has lapsed, should I boost with a ‘double dose' course, to make up?

A. Giving a double dose of vaccine, in the manner of a puppy course, to a dog that has lapsed annual boosters, has no basis in science and appears especially dangerous. In German Shepherds especially, we have seen several cases of sudden-onset CDRM, within a very short time after such procedures.

Q. My pet insurance requires annual vaccination. If I do not vaccinate, is the insurance invalid?

A. Not vaccinating results only in loss of cover for claims arising from the vaccinable diseases. Otherwise, cover is unaffected.

Q. What of the ‘other view'?

A. In the interests of balance, objectivity and transparency, we provide a link to ‘the other view', in order for readers to make their own value judgements, according to their state of knowledge, understanding and development: This issue is too serious for us to inflict bias and bigotry on our audience. Sadly, Noah does not reciprocate our ‘open' approach., by providing a reciprocal link. While it is clear that this is the body that represents ‘vested interest', impartiality would be refreshing.

If Vaccination can be dangerous, why is that information not more widely known?

There is information out there. It is just not so strongly presented as that put out by the multi-million dollar drug companies. Firstly, there is this website, which has many pages devoted to the topic. There are also two videos on You Tube:

See also: Vaccination

See also: Boosters

See also: Allergy

See also: Autoimmune Disorders

See also: Immunotherapy

If you have questions not answered here, please let us know (contact details)

Back to main FAQ

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