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Vaccine issues

No single achievement has had greater impact on the lives and well-being of our patients, our clients, and our ability to prevent infectious diseases than the development and ongoing improvements in companion animal vaccines. However, there is growing professional and public awareness that vaccine products are not as benign as first believed, and controversy exists as to duration of immunity and frequency of administration.

Vaccine administration is a medical procedure with which, as with any medical decision, there are benefits as well as attendant risks. These risks and benefits must be weighed and a medical decision regarding administration made. AAHA feels strongly that the veterinarian involved should use his or her clinical skills, knowledge, and judgment along with client input to act in the best interest of the patient.

The Report of the AAHA Canine Vaccine Task Force offers veterinarians guidelines for making immunization decisions. A similar report, issued by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Academy of Feline Medicine and endorsed by AAHA, offers vaccination guidelines for cats. Both sets of guidelines are appropriate and useful as a foundation upon which to make specific recommendations for individual patients.

The vaccination needs of dogs and cats should be assessed at least yearly and, if appropriate, vaccination schedules should be modified on the basis of changes in the patient’s age, health status, home and travel environment, and lifestyle. Vaccinations should be considered just one component of an individualized, comprehensive preventive health care plan based on the age, breed, health status, environment (potential exposure to harmful agents), lifestyle (contact with other animals), and travel habits of the dog or cat.

Adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors, November 1998. Revised June 1999. Last revised October 2003.

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