Vaccination is one of the most controversial issues in the world of veterinary medicine today. [Note - this section was first written in 2002. As of today (early 2008) the "controversy" is almost non-existent as more and more veterinarians move to extended vaccination protocols. Debate is ongoing, though, about the details.] Long-held ideas about the way in which we vaccinate pets and what we vaccinate them with are being questioned, both by veterinarians and the public. Many questions are being raised. Are vaccines safe? Harmful? Do they work? Should we vaccinate at all? How often? With what? Are there alternatives? Whose word do we take? What evidence do we have for any of this?
All good questions. Some are beyond the scope of this website. I will try to address most of these questions, but this is a big topic!
A word of caution - the internet is chock full of opinions on this subject. As you know, opinions are like armpits - everybody has 'em, and some of them smell kind of funky. I have tried to provide you with the latest information that we have from scientific studies. The "Vaccines and duration of immunity" pages have summaries of the various immunity studies that have been published. My own opinion is expressed on the "My recommendations" page.
I caution you to analyze everything you read on the internet, whether about vaccination or any other subject. Who is putting forth the information? Are they qualified to speak on the subject? Do they have the education and background to be able to make safe recommendations? Are their opinions based on fact (good), or anecdotal evidence or their own experience (very poor basis for decision making)? Do you trust them? Why or why not? Does their opinion seem reasonable? Does their opinion seem to be backed up by others of equal or greater knowledge?
I've broken down the vaccine information into the following smaller topics, each with its own page, just to prevent wear and tear on your mouse scroller. I recommend that you read the sections in order; this will give you a better sense of the issue and allow you to make more informed decisions.
The immune system - a basic overview of how vaccines work
Factors that influence the immune response
Types of vaccines (modified live versus killed)
Canine vaccines and duration of immunity research
Feline vaccines and duration of immunity research
Vaccine guarantees (what the vaccine companies are saying)
Vaccine safety - are vaccines evil? Totally benign?
My recommendations for vaccinating dogs and cats