Important vaccine legislation is pending
in Maine which is the FIRST IN THE NATION and will require veterinarians
to provide vaccine disclosure forms to pet owners BEFORE they vaccinate
their animals (cats and dogs). The bill, LD 429, An Act to Require Veterinarians
to Provide Vaccine Disclosure Forms
has been introduced on my behalf by Representative Peter Rines of Wiscasset and has been vigorously opposed by the Maine Veterinary Medical Association and its members at the public hearing of February 28th. If this legislation passes, it is only a matter of time before other stats follow suit. Already pet owners in CT, PA, FL, MO, MN, RI, WI and TX expressing interest in filing similar bills in their states, and AB263 is currently pending in Nevada http://www.leg.state.nv.us/73rd/Reports/history.cfm?ID=1803 (contact Abigail Richlin-Schwartz at
Also, Texas whistleblowing veterinarian, Dr. Robert Rogers, begun the process for launching a class action lawsuit "arising from the misrepresentation of the need for pet vaccinations"--click on the floowing link for more details and updates: http://www.dogsadversereactions.com/classaction.html.
If you support LD 429 and wish to help in the effort to get it passed, please send your local Representative (find your representative's contact information by town at http://janus.state.me.us/house/townlist.htm).and Senator (find your senator's contact information by town at http//www.state.me.us/legis/senate/senators/directory/index.htm)an e-mail telling them that you support LD 429, An Act to Require Veterinarians to Provide Vaccine Disclosure Forms. Concerned pet owners from out-of-state can e-mail LD 429's legislative sponsors at:firstname.lastname@example.org;RepCarol.Grose@legislature.maine.gov ; RepRobert.Duplessie@legislature.maine.gov ; GCforLeg@yahoo.com ;
email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
This small amount of effort will make an enormous difference (please ask any of your friends or acquaintances to do the same).
Below is the first
in a series of timely articles on pet vaccinations appearing in the current
issue of Animal Wellness Magazine. In the article, they extensively
quote Dr Ronald Schultz, Chair and Professor of Pathobiological Sciences
at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, whose challenge
studies form the base of the American Animal Hospital Association's 2003
Canine Vaccine Guidelines.
Anyone wishing to have a copy of the AAHA Guidelines, please e-mail me and I will send them along as an attachment. The following are quotes from the article that I found especially interesting and once again illustrates why Representative Rines' LD 429, An Act to Require Veterinarians to Provide Vaccine Disclosure Forms is so important to Maine's pet owners--they simply will not have access to this information otherwise. You might also want to acces Dr. Robert Rogers' website presentation on Veterinary vaccines at
Regards, Kris Christine
Although AAHA recommends vaccinating against distemper every three years after the initial puppy shots, challenge studies have shown that the minimum duration of immunity can last five to seven years, and perhaps even longer. In fact, titers have indicated that dogs can be protected for nine to 15 years. "To be honest, although canine distemper is a core vaccine, I think a dog only needs to receive it once in his life," says Dr. Schultz. "The same goes for canine parvo and adenovirus-2. That's the vaccination program I"ve been practicing on my own dogs without any difficulty whatsoever. We've never had a vaccine-preventable disease occur."
"Challenge studies indicate that a vaccinated
kitten can remain protected from feline parvo for eight years."
For more information on Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcomas from the American Veterinary Medical Association and why it is so important to have enough information so you do not overvaccinate your pet, click on this link:
Whick ones do they REALLY NEED, and HOW OFTEN?
by Ann Brightman
When Helena took her new Sheltie puppy, Mick, to the vet for his first check-up, she felt more than a little anxious when it came time for him to receive his shots. While she wanted to protect her new friend from deadly diseases like distemper and parvo, she was also concerned about the health risks associated with over-vaccination. Although Helena went ahead with the vaccines and follow-up boosters, she was worried about subjecting Mick to sebsequent annual shots, even though her vet told her she was risking her dog's health even more by not doing so.
It's a common quandary these
days, especially as we hear more and more about the often devastating side
effects of over-vaccination. How do we prevent our dogs and cats from contracting
infectious diseases that can often be fatal, while also protecting them
from the equally serious health consequences of too many shots? The
best strategy is to learn which vaccines are absolutely necessary (referred
to as core vaccines), why they're needed, and what the minimum requirements
are for each to ensure protection from disease without over-vaccinating.
WHAT ARE CORE VACCINES?
"Core vaccines are those that every dog or cat should receive, regardless of geographic location or lifestyle," says Dr. Ron Schultz, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathological Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine. For dogs, the four core vaccines are canine distemper(CDV),
canine parvovirus-2 (CPV-2), canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2) and rabies. Those for cats are feline panleukopenia or parvovirus (FPV), feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1), also referred to as feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus (FCV) and rabies. In this article, the first in a three-part series, we'll be taking a close-up look at canine distemper, feline panleukopenia and rabies.
The eight vaccinations listed above are considered
core because the dieases they protect against are distributed over a wide
area and have a high mortality rate. "These vaccinations are absolutely
necessary," says Dr. Schultz.
"You want the vaccine to be the first antigens to prime the immune system. You don't want to leave it up to natural immunization and exposure." This is because, when compared to the actual disease-causing virus, the vaccine is a safer way to protect the animal. ""If the vaccine is live, it's attenuated. It it's killed, it can't cause disease," explains Dr. Schultz. "It's true that many puppies that never see a vet get naturally immunized by exposure to distemper, as an example, but for every one that gets vaccinated, probably another would have died if the first encounter with distemper occurred prior to vaccination."
Although core vaccines are necessary to protect your companion from infectious disease, even these do not need to be given on an annual basis. "That's what we're trying to change," says Dr. Schultz. "What we recommend is that both puppies and kittens get the core vaccines at least once at or over the age of 12 weeks." The 12 weeks is significant, because prior to that, may animals still have passive maternal antibodies that block immunization, which means they may not respond to the vaccine and therefore unprotected against the disease. American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) guidelines recommend vaccinating again at one year, and once every three years after that, although even that may not be necessary. "I have studies that show duration of immunity at seven to nine years for all the core vaccines except rabies, and even on an antibody basis I can show that rabies gives much longer protection that three years," says Dr. Schultz.
CANINE DISTEMPER (CDV)
CDV is a highly infectious and often fatal disease that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems. Although dogs of any age can contract distemper, puppies up to six months of age are most susceptible to the disease, which can cause a range of symptoms from fever, loss of appetite and eye inflammation in its early stages, to diarrhea, vomiting, pneumonia, neurological complications such as ataxia, seizures and paralysis.
Canine distemper occurs around the world not only among domesticated dogs, but also in many wild carnivores such as raccoons, skumks and foxes. "Wildlife is actually now more of a reservoir for distemper than dogs are," says Dr. Schultz. "The virus is spread mainly by air, or by direct contact with secretions from infected animal. The mortality rate among puppies with distemper is 50% or higher." On the plus side, the distemper virus is very fragile and easily destroyed by outside influences. "It doesn't live very long in the environment," says Dr. Schultz. "It dies very quidkly because it is what we call an enveloped virus. These kinds of viruses are highly susceptible to water, disinfectant and sunlight."
Slthough there is only one distemper serotype, there are several genotypes. "What this means is that, from an immunologic standpoint, it doesn't matter which distemper infects the animal, they're all similar; the vaccine for canine distemper can protect against the different genotypes." Dr. Schultz adds that modified live vaccines (MLV) are most effective for distemper. "In fact there's no question in my mind that you should be using live vaccines for most of the cores. Although attenuated, live vaccines infect and replicate, and that's how you get immunity."
Although AAHA recommends vaccinating against
distemper every three years after the initial puppy shots, challenge studies
have shown that the minimum duration of immunity can last five to seven
years, and perhaps even longer. In fact, titers have indicated that dogs
can be protected for nine to 15 years. "To be honest, although canine distemper
is a core vaccine, I think a dog only needs to receive it once in his life,"
says Dr. Schultz. "The same goes for canine parvo and adenovirus-2. That's
the vaccination program I've been practicing on my own dogs without any
difficulty whatsoever. We've never had a vaccine-preventable disease occur."
Titer testing is highly effective for canine distemper, but according to Dr. Schultz, the best time to do it is at two weeks or more after the last puppy vaccination, to ensure that the animal responded to its initial vaccines. “To my mind, that’s the only time it’s of medical benefit to use a titer test for canine distemper. After that, you don’t really need to titer the animal since you can easily go five or seven years before the next vaccine.”
FELINE PANLEUKOPENIA (FPV)
Although FPV is sometimes referred to as feline distemper, this terminology is misleading. “When I talk about feline ‘distemper,’ I always talk about it as feline parvo or panleukopenia,” explains Dr. Schultz. “The virus that causes this disease is essentially
identical to the canine parvo virus, but not the canine distemper virus. If a dog has parvo, it can infect a cat, but this doesn’t happen with distemper.”
Most often found in kittens, FPV is a contagious and deadly disease that attacks and destroys growing cells in the intestine, blood and nervous system. It causes diarrhea, vomiting, a lowered white blood cell count, and neurological symptoms such as tremors. Kittens up to six months of age can easily die from the disease, while older cats may develop much milder signs. “There’s a tremendous age-related resistance to parvo,” says Dr. Schultz. “If the animal is less than a year old, mortality is 80% to 100%. However, I rarely see mortality in animals over a year of age, although I might see mild morbidity. Nevertheless, feline parvo is the one cat vaccin4e I absolutely insist on.”
Like canine distemper, feline parvo has worldwide distribution with outbreaks occurring most commonly in urban areas during the summer months. The disease is transmitted by direct contact, although cats can also contract FPV from the fecal matter of an infected feline. Unlike canine distemper, the parvo virus is extremely long-lived, and can remain active in the environment for months or even longer. “Parvo is what we call a naked virus and is one of the most resistant,” says Dr. Schultz. Soil contaminated with the parvo virus still has the ability to infect an animal a year later. “In fact, parvo is more often caused by environmental contamination than direct contact with an infected animal. You don’t need the infected cat to be in the environment for very long in order for it to leave the virus behind.”
As with canine distemper, MLV vaccines are very effective for preventing feline panleukopenia. “With parvo, in fact, you’d better be using live vaccines, because the killeds don’t work.” As with other core vaccines, kittens should be vaccinated at 12 weeks. Titer testing is very effective for this disease, although challenge studies indicate that a vaccinated kitten can remain protected from feline parvo for eight years.
Unlike distemper and parvo, rabies is a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans, which is why rabies vaccinations are required by law throughout North America. The virus infects the central nervous system, causing encephalitis and death. Symptoms can include confusion, partial paralysis, aggressive behavior, excessive salivation and other neurological signs. Although rabies occurs worldwide, including in Asia, Africa and Latin America, some countries such as the U.K. are rabies-free. In North America, rabies is most prevalent in the eastern portions of the continent, although cases can occur anywhere. Wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes are the major carriers. Because rabies isn’t age-related, mammals at all stages of life can be affected with the same degree of severity. The chief means of transmission is by a bite from an infected animal.
“There are multiple strains of rabies, but the important thing is that the vaccine prevents infection with all those different strains,” says Dr. Schultz. “Although the risk of infection in domesticated animals is generally low, the public health concern is the issue. That’s what drives the regulations for rabies vaccines.” As with the other core vaccines, puppies and kittens should be vaccinated at 12 weeks. Although some states and provinces have approved a three-year rabies vaccine, some still require annual re-vaccination for dogs and cats, even though the duration of immunity based on challenge studies has been shown to be three to seven years. “The regulations vary from state to state and province to province, and even from municipality to municipality.” It’s also important to realize that a municipality might have a more restrictive requirement than the state or province it’s a part of, although not the other way around.
“Rabies titers are effective, but there’s no point running them because
you’re going to have to vaccinate your animal by law anyhow,” says Dr.
Schultz. However, titer testing for rabies is useful in cases where the
animal has had an adverse reaction to the vaccine, or has a medical condition
that could be aggravated by the vaccination. “In these situations, local
municipalities will sometimes accept a letter from the vet as a reason
not to vaccinate every three years, But the guardian has to understand
that the animal is still considered to be non-vaccinated, and if it bit
someone, it would be treated as such if it’s gone beyond the three years,
irrespective of the vet’s letter. Even so, if you have a dog that for health
shouldn’t be given a rabies vaccine, it’s better to take the chance of it being quarantined for biting someone than to give the vaccine and kill the dog.”
BACK TO BASICS
Vaccinations definitely have their place in disease prevention, but knowing where to draw the line is key. “I’ve seen it go from no vaccines back in the mid-1960s, to where we just kept adding one after the other,” says Dr. Schultz. The pendulum has since started swinging back again as organizations such as AAHA and American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) began looking more closely at which vaccines out of the 12 for cats and 16 for dogs were really needed and why. “We used to have one manufacturer that made a canine vaccine combo with 13 different components in it. That’s not good, and that’s why it’s not available anymore.” Now, by contrast, companies are coming out with information demonstrating that their products give duration of immunity lasting several years. “All the major manufacturers are coming on board and saying that their core vaccines give at least three years immunity. To me, that’s the greatest gratification in the more than 25 years I’ve been doing this.”
The following article on LD 429, An Act to Require Veterinarians to Provide Vaccine Disclosure Forms, appears in the Sunday, February 20, 2005 issuse of the The Lewiston Sun Journal and may be accessed at the link below.
TOO MANY SHOTS?
By Bonnie Washuk, Staff Writer
Sunday, February 20,2005
Ashleigh D. Starke/Sun Journal
CANINE CONCERNS: Kris Christine of Alna hopes the Legislature will pass
legislation requiring all Maine veterinarians to give pet owners disclosure
forms on the pros and cons of vaccinations. In January 2003, her Labrador
retriever, Meadow, pictured here, developed a mast cell tumor on the site
of a rabies vaccination.
AUGUSTA - Like many pet owners, when Kris Christine of Alna got cards from her veterinarian reminding her that Meadow's and Butter's shots were due, she brought in her lovable Labs.
Her vet recommended that her pets have rabies shots every other year and distemper shots every year, Christine said.
But months after Meadow's biannual rabies shot in the fall of 2003, she noticed something. "He had this weird thing on his back hind side," she said. "Every time he'd run, it would swell, then it would go away."
Meadow eventually was diagnosed with mast cell cancer, which Christine believes resulted from the vaccination injection at that same spot on his leg. "It's not something you want," she said. "It's an aggressive cancer."
Veterinarians say the likelihood is very small that Meadow's cancer stemmed from the shot. However, while taking care of Meadow's cancer, Christine stumbled on a hot debate in the animal health field: How often should dogs and cats be vaccinated?
While experts stress that vaccines are vital to the health of pets, mounting research indicates vaccines can no longer be considered harmless. Research shows they can cause adverse health effects - everything from lower immunity against viruses, bacteria and parasites, to cancer - and that some vaccines do not have to be given as frequently as once thought.
In response, the American Animal Hospital Association in 2003 began recommending less frequent vaccinations for cats and dogs.
Christine, who began researching the subject after Meadow's cancer was
detected, quickly became an energetic crusader, spreading information about
vaccinations and questioning frequency guidelines. She believes that by
following her veterinarian's recommendations, "Meadow was being over-vaccinated
Ashleigh D. Starke/Sun Journal
Kris Christine of Alna hopes the Legislature will pass legislation requiring all Maine veterinarians to give pet owners disclosure forms on the pros and cons of vaccinations.
In the process, Christine said she discovered that Maine law required a rabies shot for dogs and cats every two years, despite the fact that the vaccine's manufacturer says it is good for three.
She questioned the law in early 2004, and it was changed last fall, according to state public health veterinarian Dr. Robert Gholson. The state now mandates that rabies shots be given every three years. (Saying not all veterinarians have gotten the word, Gholson is sending out a second reminder.)
Christine now hopes she will be equally successful with her next effort: to get the Legislature to pass a law requiring Maine veterinarians to disclose the pros and cons of vaccines.
Rep. Peter Rines, D-Wiscasset, is sponsoring L.D. 429, and said that since introducing the bill, the outpouring of e-mails and letters in favor has been overwhelming.
"In my tenure as a legislator I've never had this kind of response," he said. Pet owners are thanking him, and some people outside Maine have said they hope his bill will lead to similar laws in other states, he said.
"Everyone wants to do the best thing for our four-legged friends," said Rines, noting his bill is intended only to give consumers information.
But some Maine veterinarians plan to voice their opposition to the bill at its public hearing on Feb. 28. Saying they feel like they're under attack, the opponents say they see no need for disclosure forms.
The making of a crusader
After Meadow was diagnosed with cancer last year, he underwent two operations. A chunk of his back thigh was removed.
On the bottom of one of Christine's veterinarian bills in April for cancer treatment was a reminder that Meadow's distemper shot was due in November and his next rabies shot in 2005.
It upset Christine. "I said, 'He's not going to be alive then.'"
Christine said her veterinarian said the cancer did not come from the vaccine, but Christine was skeptical. She grew even more doubtful after learning that the law required dog immunizations every two years even though the rabies vaccine lasted three.
When she got the bill, Christine told her vet she had a problem giving her dog vaccinations every year or every other year.
"Here's my dog lying at my feet, suffering with a huge chunk of his hind leg removed. I thought, 'You were giving him medication that you know he doesn't need.'"
Christine found a new veterinarian and became an advocate for changing the laws and making pet owners more aware of the potential health risks posed by vaccinations. "We need the tools," she said
She is not the only one who feels that way.
Among those concerned about pets receiving vaccinations too frequently are AKC judge and former breeder Arnold Woolf of Lewiston and Larry Doyon of Munster Abbey Kennels in Minot, breeders of German shepherds. Both say they support the legislation.
Experts: Risks are low, but . . .
Christine's efforts have also met angry opposition. Last week the Maine Veterinary Medical Association came out against L.D. 429. In a Feb. 2 letter to lawmakers, MVMA President Matt Townsend did not directly spell out why the organization is opposed to the bill.
But Townsend complained that such a law would mandate "cumbersome disclosure and consent procedures for every vaccination and medication dispensed by veterinarians." It also said Christine "has launched what can only be described as an aggressive scare campaign, designed to drive a wedge of distrust between pet owners and their veterinarians."
Actually, the law makes no mention of medication other than vaccines. The law says veterinarians must provide disclosure forms informing consumers about the advantages and disadvantages of vaccines.
MVMA Executive Director Bill Bell said there is no Maine protocol on how often vaccines should be administered, and that even top researchers disagree. "The bill is vague to the point of being ridiculous," he said.
Veterinarians are worried a disclosure form would scare away some pet owners from having their dogs and cats vaccinated, which would lead to diseases coming back, Bell said. He added that the bill will increase paperwork for veterinarians without doing any good.
One nationally recognized vaccine researcher, Dr. Ronald Schultz, favors the law.
While rare, vaccines can cause adverse health affects in cats and dogs, said Schultz, an expert in animal vaccinations and chair of the department of pathobiological sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.
"I favor anything that would better inform the potential buyer of what they need and what they're getting," he said in a telephone interview from his Wisconsin office.
A majority of veterinarians are already providing that information, but some are not, he said.
The thinking that vaccines are harmless is changing, Schultz said, adding that annual vaccinations don't help pets, and can hurt them. "For years we worked under a philosophy of 'if it doesn't help, (at least) it won't hurt.'"
What he called "an awakening" began in the 1980s when healthy cats given vaccines were getting cancer. "The odds were small, but if the odds are 1 in 1,000 that doesn't matter if it's your pet," he said.
The probability of dog vaccines causing cancer is lower than cats, he said. "But we're constantly learning. The wake-up call to the veterinarian profession was that vaccines create a risk. ... No matter how rare the adverse effects are, we don't want to give a product that's not needed."
Schultz said the veterinary profession has been using annual or biannual shots as a way to bring clients through the door for the more important exam. Convincing pet owners to come in by telling them their pets' annual or biannual shots are due should no longer be practiced, he said.
Schultz cited the newest guidelines from the American Animal Hospital Association, which in 2003 went from recommending annual distemper shots to one every three years. Under the guidelines, dogs and cats should receive core shots for rabies and distemper beginning at 12 weeks, a booster at one year, then boosters no more frequently than every three years. (Some central and western Maine veterinarians are following the recommendations, others are not. See related chart.)
All other vaccines are "optional," according to Schultz and the AAHA, and are based on the animal's lifestyle and risk. For instance, annual Lyme disease and heartworm vaccines may be important for pets living in areas where those diseases have been prevalent, but may not be necessary where they have not, he said.
Maine vets already informing
While not all researchers or veterinarians agree with Schultz, many acknowledge that the thinking regarding vaccines has changed in recent years, and that more vets are giving vaccinations less frequently.
"There's been a paradigm shift to greater focus on trying to encourage clients to see the importance of an examine and not vaccines, that vets aren't just for shots anymore," said Dr. Bill Bryant, past president of MVMA. Physical examinations at least once a year are important, he stressed, especially when considering that dogs and cats "age seven years on average for every year we age."
Part of that examination, Bryant said, involves making a recommendation on what vaccines a pet should have, based on the pet's lifestyle. For instance, a dog that is never with other animals may need less vaccine protection than one that goes to a doggie day care. An indoor cat needs less than one that roams outdoors.
In part because of that important relationship between a veterinarian and a pet owner, Bryant and at least some other Maine veterinarians remain wary of Christine's legislation. Veterinarians are already giving clients information on the risk of vaccines, he said. Central Maine Veterinary Hospital in Turner, for instance, asks pet owners to sign a vaccination consent form that outlines the concerns.
Dr. Susan Chadiman of Androscoggin Animal Hospital in Topsham said L.D. 429 is well intentioned and that the veterinarian's office "is the place for dialogue, for education." But she said she's against the bill because a mandated disclosure form would not enhance that.
"It would create a tremendous amount of paperwork," Chadiman said. "And a real concern is that it leaves wide open who's going to decide what is science, what is fact."
Christine, whose dog Meadow is now doing "very well," counters that science has already proven that the protective effects of pet vaccines last longer than even the newest recommendations. But she said her legislation is simply about a consumer's right to know.
"I think pet owners have a right to know what veterinarians know" about the effects and effectiveness of vaccines, she said.
No one would advocate giving a human a 10-year tetanus shot every two years, she said. Pet owners are consumers. "They need to know there's no benefit in giving their dogs booster shots more often ... and it does put them at increased risk for adverse side effects," she said.
What: The bill says veterinarians "shall provide a vaccine disclosure form to the owner of a dog or cat before vaccinating that dog or cat. The vaccine disclosure form must provide information regarding the advantages and disadvantages of vaccines."
When: L.D. 429 will be heard before the legislative Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The public hearing has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 28, in Room 206 of the State Office Building.
FOR THE DOGS
By Bonnie Washuk, Staff Writer
AUGUSTA - A public hearing Monday on a proposal to mandate consumers be given information about the risks and benefits of vaccines turned into a face-off, with no agreement between veterinarians and pet owners.
Veterinarians staunchly opposed legislators forcing them to give pet owners information about vaccines. They're already doing that, they said. And the science about adverse health risks from vaccines is "fluid," making it impossible to give good information, veterinarians said.
Pet owners and dog breeders who jammed into the standing-room-only hearing were on the other side of L.D. 429. They questioned why veterinarians were so opposed to giving out information.
With her little dog, Minnie, in her arms, Laura Moon of Brunswick said she favors the bill. Everyone was there because they love animals, she said. "That's why I think disclosure is so important. How as an owner, as a guardian, do you know if you don't know?"
When any activity raises potential harm, precautionary measures are warranted, even if the cause and effect are not fully understood, Moon said. "How can we make an informed decision if we don't have information?"
Joan Jordan, a dog breeder and dog obedience teacher from Woolwich, said she's seen dogs "that have had a vaccine that had had lumps and died. Personally I had a dog a couple of years ago I lost." Weeks after her dog had a vaccine, she underwent surgery and chemotherapy, she said, adding that 18 months later "Sarah" died.
When humans are prescribed medicine they're given information about possible risks, Jordan said. "I see no reason why the veterinarians feel that that's a threat to their services. ... What's the problem with us just knowing what the research is saying?"
Arnold Woolf of Lewiston, a breeder and dog judge, called the bill a "safeguard for dogs and cats." Years ago he sold a Collie puppy to a couple who took that puppy to their veterinarian. That veterinarian "re-inoculated the animal," giving shots the puppy already had. The dog died within 48 hours from a vaccine overdose, Woolf said. " That's what the autopsy showed."
Veterinarians disagreed that the bill would do any good. They testified about how critical vaccines are to keeping dogs and cats disease free, how their profession is under attack with inaccurate information.
Dr. Bill Bryant of Winthrop, past president of the Maine Veterinary Medical Association, said veterinarians are strong proponents of education, but they're against the bill. Vaccine protocols have changed and will continue to change, he said. Experts disagree on the science of health risks, he said. With that science "fluid," Bryant asked who would write information in disclosures, and what set of research would be used?
Legislators should not mandate disclosure forms "for what is a rapidly evolving national veterinary issue that Maine veterinarians are actively addressing," Bryant said.
Dr. Paul Wade of Manchester said polls show that veterinarians are among the most trusted professionals. Wade said he gives his clients numerous consent and information forms on many services, including vaccines, that show the benefits and side effects.
Most veterinarians are also doing that, he said. "There is no need for a state law to force us to do something we're already doing voluntarily. The bill is not a legislative issue," Wade said with a tone of annoyance. "The hidden agenda behind this bill is not for the protection of welfare for animals, but an attempt to further control an already ethical and trusted profession."
The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee will take up LD 429 in an unscheduled work session, possibly March 16, those attending the hearing were told.
HEARING ON PET VACCINE DISCLOSURE FORMS DRAWS A BIG
By Kay Liss
A hearing on a proposal to require veterinarians to provide to pet owners disclosure forms on vaccines was standing-room-only on Monday in Augusta. Comments were fairly equally divided, with citizens in support on one hand and veterinarians opposed on the other.
The proposed act is the latest effort spearheaded by Kris Christine of Alna to correct what she views as flaws in state laws regarding the administering of vaccines to pets, dogs in particular.
She recently was successful in bringing enough attention to discrepancies in canine rabies vaccination rules, which resulted in over-vaccination of dogs in Maine for 17 years, that the law was changed, extending the administering of inoculations from two to three years. Language exempting sick dogs from the requirement is soon to be added, due to the persistence of the Alna mother and dog owner.
This new proposal, initially championed by former Senator Chris Hall of Bristol, and presently by Rep. Peter Rines (D-Wiscasset), is an important next step, Christine believes, providing pet owners with scientifically-based information on which to make decisions on other routinely-given canine vaccines, specifically the distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis booster shot, recommended annually by vets. In her research into the rabies vaccines issue, she came upon information that suggested this booster vaccine was protective for much longer than a year.
First to speak to the Agriculture, Conservation and Forest Committee at the hearing, Christine began: “Many Maine veterinarians have failed to inform clients that most core veterinary vaccines protect for seven or more years, and pet owners, unaware that their animals don’t need booster vaccinations more often, have unwittingly given their companions useless booster shots – taking an unnecessary toll on their finances and animals’ health.”
Her testimony was bolstered by information from various authoritative sources, including Dr. Ronald Schultz, a leading researcher and authority on veterinary vaccine. His studies formed the scientific basis of the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) 2003 Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Recommendations, and Supporting Literature, which stated: “We now know that booster injections are of no value in dogs already immune, and immunity from distemper infection and vaccination lasts for a minimum of 7 years based on challenge studies and up to 15 years (a lifetime) based on antibody titer.”
In the American Veterinarian Medical Association’s Principles of Vaccination literature, Christine further quoted, “Unnecessary stimulation of the immune system does not result in enhanced disease resistance, and may increase the risk of adverse post-vaccination events” including “autoimmune disorders, transient infections, and/or long-term infected carrier states. In addition, a causal association in cats between injection sites and the subsequent development of a malignant tumor is the subject of ongoing research.”
Speaking in support of the bill, a social worker from Warren, Jennifer Pearson, said she was “baffled” by the resistance of the veterinarians to the disclosure forms. Just as peoples’ rights are recognized to know the risks and benefits of drugs they take, so should the rights of pet owners be recognized in the vaccines recommended for their animals.
Arnold Woolf, a dog breeder from Lewiston and an AKC judge, testified that the disclosure forms would provide a “safeguard” to dogs and cats. He added that he didn’t see why supplying such a disclosure form should be a burden to vets, since pharmacists supply consumers a print-out of the pros and cons of drug they purchase without any trouble. Another breeder, Kay Sukforth of Sukee Kennels in Warren, commented that she thought the vets should welcome such a form, because it would protect them from possible lawsuits.
Dr. Bill Bryant, past president of the Maine Veterinarians Medical Association (MVMA), testified that vaccine protocols were in a “period of transition” and that the science is so complex and in a state of flux that it would be too difficult to provide a reliable and simple disclosure form. He said he didn’t want to turn “our profession” into managed care. He also accused the Christines of carrying on a negative campaign against the veterinarian community.
When asked by a number of legislators why he had previously said he was in favor of the disclosure form legislation, having stated in a Veterinary News magazine article “It’s time for something like this to come out … disclosure forms will be an important resource to have available, [and] if it goes before the Legislature, we’d likely support it,” Bryant appeared hardpressed to explain. He did agree a usable form might be devised but did not support it being devised by a legislative committee but by veterinarian associations.
Other veterinarians claimed they were already giving their clients information about vaccines so didn’t need to provide disclosure forms. A number claimed to be just like “James Herriot,” the well-known veterinarian and author of “All Creatures Great and Small” who has become a symbol of the ideal, trustworthy vet.
A supporter of the forms, Laura Moon of Brunswick, appeared with her Jack Russell Terrier, who had a large tumor on its side. She urged legislators to pass a law so that people would have more knowledge of vaccines, and that possible side-effects of such vaccines might be avoided.
Legislators will convene a work session on the bill in about two weeks. The act would be the first of its kind in the nation.
February 27, 2005
TO: The Agriculture, Conservation and Forest Committee
RE: LD 429, An Act to Require Veterinarians to Provide Vaccine Disclosure Forms
My name is Kris Christine and I live with my family in Alna, Maine. Before I begin my testimony, I’d like to advise the committee that one of the world’s leading veterinary research scientists, Dr. W. Jean Dodds, wanted to be here today to testify in support of LD429, but could not do so because of prior commitments. With her permission, in the attachments to my testimony, I have included her letter to Representative Peter Rines dated February 17, 2005 resolutely endorsing this first-in-the-nation veterinary vaccine disclosure legislation.
I am here today to respectfully urge this committee to recommend passage of LD429 – An Act to Require Veterinarians to Provide Vaccine Disclosure Forms because pet owners need the scientifically proven durations of immunity (how long vaccines are effective for) in order to make informed medical choices for their animals.
Many Maine veterinarians have failed to inform clients that most core veterinary vaccines protect for seven or more years, and pet owners, unaware that their animals don’t need booster vaccinations more often, have unwittingly given their companions useless booster shots – taking an unnecessary toll on their finances and animals’ health. The human equivalent would be physicians vaccinating patients against tetanus once every year, two years, or three years and not disclosing that the vaccines are known to be protective for 10 years.
For years veterinarians have sent pet owners annual, biennial and triennial reminders for redundant booster shots and justified it with vaccine manufacturers’ labeled recommendations. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Principles of Vaccination, “..revaccination frequency recommendations found on many vaccine labels is based on historical precedent, not on scientific data … [and] does not resolve the question about average or maximum duration of immunity and..may fail to adequately inform practitioners about optimal use of the product... .” As the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital states it: “…booster vaccine recommendations for vaccines other than rabies virus have been determined arbitrarily by manufacturers.”
Dr. Ronald Schultz, Chairman of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, is at the forefront of vaccine research and is one of the world’s leading authorities on veterinary vaccines. His challenge study results form the scientific base of the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) 2003 Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Recommendations, and Supporting Literature. These studies are based on science – they are not arbitrary. The public, however, cannot access this data. The American Animal Hospital Association only makes this report available to veterinarians, not private citizens, and Maine’s pet owners are unaware that the AAHA Guidelines state on Page 18 that: “We now know that booster injections are of no value in dogs already immune, and immunity from distemper infection and vaccination lasts for a minimum of 7 years based on challenge studies and up to 15 years (a lifetime) based on antibody titer.” They further state that hepatitis and parvovirus vaccines have been proven to protect for a minimum of 7 years by challenge and up to 9 and 10 years based on antibody count. So, unless the Legislature passes LD429 requiring veterinarians to provide vaccine disclosure forms, dog owners who receive an annual, biennial, or triennial reminders for booster shots will not know that nationally-accepted scientific studies have demonstrated that animals are protected a minimum of 7 years after vaccination with the distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus-2 vaccines (see Page 12 AAHA 2003 Guidelines attached, and Table 1, Pages 3 and 4).
"My own pets are vaccinated once or twice as pups and kittens, then never again except for rabies,” Wall Street Journal reporter Rhonda L. Rundle quoted Dr. Ronald Schultz in a July 31, 2002 article entitled Annual Pet Vaccinations may be Unnecessary, Fatal . Dr. Schultz knows something the pet-owning public doesn’t – he knows there’s no benefit in overvaccinating animals because immunity is not enhanced, but the risk of harmful adverse reactions is increased. He also knows that most core veterinary vaccines are protective for at least seven years, if not for the lifetime of the animal.
The first entry under Appendix 2 of the AAHA Guidelines “Important Vaccination ‘Do’s and Don’ts” is “Do Not Vaccinate Needlessly – Don’t revaccinate more often than is needed and only with the vaccines that prevent diseases for which that animal is at risk.” They also caution veterinarians: “Do Not Assume that Vaccines Cannot Harm a Patient – Vaccines are potent medically active agents and have the very real potential of producing adverse events.” Very few pet owners have had this disclosed to them.
The AVMA’s Principles of Vaccination states that “Unnecessary stimulation of the immune system does not result in enhanced disease resistance, and may increase the risk of adverse post-vaccination events.” They elaborate by reporting that: “Possible adverse events include failure to immunize, anaphylaxis, immunosuppression, autoimmune disorders, transient infections, and/or long-term infected carrier states. In addition, a causal association in cats between injection sites and the subsequent development of a malignant tumor is the subject of ongoing research.”
Referring to adverse reactions from vaccines, the Wall Street Journal article cited above reports: “In cats there has been a large increase in hyperthyroidism and cancerous tumors between the shoulder blades where vaccines typically are injected.” With modified live virus vaccines (distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis), some animals can actually contract the same disease which they are being inoculated against. If the public knew an animal’s immunity to disease is not increased by overvaccination, they would certainly not consent to expose their pets to potential harm by giving them excessive booster shots
Veterinary vaccines are potent biologic drugs – most having proven durations of immunity much longer than the annual, biennial or triennial booster frequencies recommended by vaccine manufacturers and veterinarians. They also carry the very real risk of serious adverse side affects and should not be administered more often than necessary to maintain immunity.
The extended durations of immunity for vaccines is not “new” or “recent” science as some members of the Maine Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) have claimed. AAHA reveals on Page 2 of their Guidelines that ideal reduced vaccination protocols were recommended by vaccinology experts beginning in 1978. A Veterinary Practice News article entitled “Managing Vaccine Changes” by veterinarian Dennis M. McCurnin, reports that: “Change has been discussed for the past 15 years and now has started to move across the country
According to a September 1, 2004 article in the DVM veterinary news magazine, the 312 member Maine Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA) “champions full disclosure of vaccine
information to pet owners.” MVMA president, Dr. Bill Bryant, is quoted as stating: “Its time for something like this to come out … disclosure forms will be an important resource to have available, [and] if it goes before the Legislature, we’d likely support it.”
It is time. Pet owners have the right to know the scientifically proven durations of immunity for the veterinary vaccines given their animals, as well as the potential adverse side effects and benefits. LD 429 would make that standardized information available to all pet owners.
Kris L. Christine
Alna, ME 04535