AVMA Answers

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AVMA Answers

What are AVMA's recommendations for cat and dog vaccination? What are AVMA's next steps in this area?

 Dr. Elizabeth
assistant director of
the AVMA Scientific
Activities Division and
staff consultant to the
Council on Biologic and
Therapeutic Agents

The AVMA encourages veterinarians to tailor vaccine recommendations to their patients. After studying the issue for several years, the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents concluded that inadequate data exist to scientifically determine a single, one-size-fits-all protocol for vaccination or revaccination of dogs and cats. COBTA believes that variations among patients, their lifestyles, and related disease risks and between individual vaccine products available necessitate a customized approach to vaccination recommendations.

The AVMA recommends that you consider creating a core vaccine program to use in most animals. This includes vaccines that protect against diseases caused by agents that are highly infectious, virulent, and widely distributed and for which highly effective vaccines exist and may be required by law. Noncore vaccines may also be indicated in a minority of animals at special risk for diseases because of lifestyle, for example, including diseases that represent a less-severe threat and/or for which the vaccine benefit-risk ratio is too low for general use.

The AVMA concluded there is evidence that some vaccines provide immunity beyond one year. Revaccination of patients with sufficient immunity doesn't add measurably to their disease resistance, and unnecessary revaccination may increase the risk of adverse postvaccination events in some animals. While annual vaccinations have been highly successful in curbing disease, the one-year revaccination frequency recommendation found on many vaccine labels is based on historical precedent, not scientific data. Even in cases where scientific data were submitted to qualify a label claim, the data generated generally represent a minimum duration of immunity and don't resolve the question about average or maximum duration of immunity.

Vaccination recommendations should be designed to maintain clinically relevant immunity while minimizing the potential for adverse events. Sharing information about vaccination benefits and risks empowers owners to make the best decision for their pet.

Individuals can obtain COBTA's Report on Cat and Dog Vaccines and other vaccine information by calling (800) 248-2862, Ext. 6770.

There are common themes and great overlaps between AVMA and AAHA vaccine guidelines. Both call for core and noncore vaccines. Both indicate that for some antigens, following a recommended kitten or puppy series and a booster vaccination at one year, revaccination intervals can be lengthened. AVMA, however, emphasizes the variation in animals, lifestyles, regions, and vaccine performance impacts the optimal revaccination interval and pets receive maximum benefit from customization of the recommendations for each animal's individual needs.

As far as next steps, COBTA is working with the biologics industry and the Department of Agriculture's Center for Veterinary Biologics, the animal biologics licensing authority, on a labeling initiative. The goal is for labels to include only scientifically based information and provide realistic expectations when it comes to product performance.

Second, COBTA is working with federal regulators, industry, and other stakeholders to improve adverse event reporting programs for all animal health products. COBTA sees the need to improve the collection and analysis of reports, and to offer timely and clinically relevant feedback to veterinarians to assist their medical decision-making process.