SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Lifestyle

January 10, 2014

Vet Connection: To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

The question “Why should I vaccinate my pet?” is not a new one. This is the case especially as wellness, natural and homeopathic medicine has gained ground. Homeopathy considers vaccines to be 100 percent harmful to the individual. Its premise is that eating well and taking care of the body will keep the life force, and if symptoms occur, they can be treated with varying dilutions of naturally occurring plants and minerals. Currently, the American Veterinary Medical Association has before it a resolution to declare non-confidence in homeopathy as an effective health care modality. It is unlikely that the resolution will pass. The effectiveness of homeopathy is impossible to test on a scientific basis, because each individual is treated with a different combination of these medications based on his or her symptoms. Since homeopathy medications are naturally occurring, big pharmaceutical companies cannot produce them and mark them up as they can vaccines and manufactured medications. Many veterinary practices are stressing wellness preventative medicine. Should this include vaccination?

People dig in their heels when it comes to vaccinating themselves and their pets. These days, virtually none of us has watched a loved one die from rabies or diphtheria or become withered with polio. We never grew up on farms and have no idea what “herd immunity” is. If you have a herd of cattle and want it to be free of a killer disease such as rhinderpest, you vaccinate 100 percent of the individuals in the herd. Vaccination gives each cow the “opportunity” to develop immunity. Hopefully, an individual’s lymph nodes and bone marrow are able to generate enough antibodies to develop immunity to the disease. If 70 percent of the herd develops immunity, then you have herd immunity to that virus. If one cow gets sick, there will probably be enough individuals around it with immunity that the disease won’t spread like wildfire and kill the whole herd. If 30 percent of the herd says, “Don’t vaccinate me because I am afraid of the side effects,” and an additional percentage of vaccinated cows do not mount an immune response, the herd immunity starts to wane, and there is increased likelihood of losing the entire herd to disease. For effective individual immunity, 90 percent of the herd must have immunity. If you want your particular pet or child to be spared from the disease while not vaccinating them, you are gambling that almost 100 percent of the other parents in your town are vaccinating those under their care and that 90 percent of those vaccinated are mounting immunity. As more families choose not to vaccinate, the percentage of those with immunity slips to under 90 percent, and there is a much higher likelihood that the individual under your care will contract the disease if exposed.

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