Fine, but what is necessary? It’s a sensitive topic that can hardly be discussed without bringing the anger of some of the readership upon us. Let’s approach it in a well-structured way:
The status quo in Germany is frequently as follows: The usual annual vaccines are against cat flu (feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus) and feline panleukopenia (feline parvovirus). Cats enjoying the outdoor world are also vaccinated against rabies and FeLV (feline leukaemia virus).
In addition, many breeders and other cat guardians have their cats vaccinated also against FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) and chlamydia (a pathogen attacking the eyes).
It means that on a yearly basis, indoor cats get at least three, outdoor cats as many as five, while cats for breeding even six vaccinations.
Vaccinate as little as possible and as much as necessary.
We firmly believe that cats are vaccinated too extensively and too frequently in Germany.
In the USA, university veterinarians have been criticizing annual vaccinations for long years now. This criticism was reflected in Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy, a popular guidebook for practicing veterinarians. It lasted eventually until 1997, when the American Veterinary Medical Association introduced new vaccination directives and ad absurdum followed the practice that is still current practice in Germany today.
Vaccination guidelines in the USA are as follows – and even this vaccination schedule is subject to dispute as being too frequent:
- Basic immunization
- Repeated a year later
- Booster vaccination every three years afterwards
The pathogens the cat is vaccinated against are determined based on the form and region of keeping.
Cats have to receive basic immunization against feline panleukopenia. This vaccine is given after the age of eight weeks and repeated in four weeks. The fact that basic immunization lasts for a lifetime is very much in favour of this vaccine. The feline immunological memory functions like that of humans. There are the so-called humoral immunity that can be measured through antibodies, and cell-mediated immunity that produces immune cells. Especially cell-mediated immunity remains active normally for a lifetime.
Cats may receive basic immunization against cat flu. Yet, vaccinated animals can get infected, because the flu vaccine is by far not as good as the panleukopenia vaccine. The vaccine against cat flu does not prevent the infection. There are innumerable vaccinated cats carrying caliciviruses (less frequently: herpesviruses) and they shed the viruses too. Despite higher vaccination percentages, the calicivirus emerges increasingly frequently nowadays. Following basic immunization, the question about the usefulness of an additional flu vaccination is definitely reasonable.
The vaccination against Chlamydia is often given via a combination preparation in the cat flu vaccine. However, the active ingredient has frequently emerging adverse effects. The vaccine does not provide protection against the infection; it only lessens the symptoms of the disease at best.
The vaccination against the feline leukaemia virus is often recommended for outdoor cats. In general, adult cats have adequate defence produced naturally in the body against this virus. In the cases of young outdoor cats to be vaccinated, it is crucial to determine prior to vaccination whether the cat is FeLV negative. It needs to be noted here that the development of vaccine-sarcomas is associated with FeLV vaccines at an above-average frequency.
The vaccine against feline infectious peritonitis is highly debated not only in Germany. Many vaccinated cats are already infected by the non-mutated form of coronavirus anyway, so vaccination is pointless. It affects more than 80% of domesticated cats. Coronavirus infection only rarely leads to the outbreak of FIP, mainly very young cats in stressful situations get sick – irrespective of their vaccination status.
You must have your cat vaccinated against rabies if you travel with your cat to particular countries. In addition, the rabies vaccination is recommended mainly for outdoor cats. The question here needs to be raised however, whether this vaccination makes any sense. In Germany, rabies in dogs has long been eradicated, in foxes since 2008. The only remaining risk is transmission by bats, because rabies in bats is not yet under control anywhere in the world. According to the Rabies Centre of FLI (Federal Research Institute for Animal Health) in Wusterhausen however, cases of rabies transmission by bat to cat are not known. (Source).
Please do not hesitate to start a critical discussion with your vet, and show him the current vaccination practice in the USA. The question we should ask here is:
Can a vaccine cause harm? And the answer clearly is: yes, it can.
Vaccine adverse events
We are not at all against vaccination but we do our best to come to a reasonable benefit-risk assessment, which we miss in a number of progress reports. The fact that vaccines are associated with risks (frequently avoidable) is all too often concealed:
Vaccine Associated Fibrosarcoma (Vaccine Associated Sarcoma)
Vaccine associated sarcoma is a cancerous disease that develops at the vaccination site weeks or months following vaccination. It can be identified as a granuloma, in other words a thickening, a “lump” under the skin. Such a sarcoma can basically be treated conventionally only, meaning a radical and extensive operation. However, recurrence occurs almost every time, which new tumours eventually lead to death.
This disease is tended to be understated.
According to studies, the incidence rate ranges between 0.1% and 0.17%, i.e. once in every 750-1000 cases. Taking domesticated cats living in Germany today into consideration, and converted into figures it means 8,000-14,000 cases. So, vaccine associated sarcoma is not at all a marginal phenomenon.
There are clear-cut guidelines in the USA regarding where the vaccination shall be positioned. Therefore, vaccinating between the shoulder blades is a no-go, because a sarcoma at this body part is considered as untreatable. In addition, it is recommended that each vaccine should be administered individually, and combination vaccines should be avoided. You would be looking for such recommendations in Germany in vain.
Additional adverse vaccine reactions
Besides anaphylactic shock emerging right after vaccination, autoimmune reactions may also develop that lead to kidney impairment. In addition, various major allergic reactions may emerge. All these consequences of vaccinations are potentially or certainly lethal.
We are not intending to cause any vaccination panic. At the same time, you need to know that one vaccine “too much” is definitely harmful. Unnecessary vaccinations should be avoided by all means.
Dr. R. D. Schultz, veterinary immunology at the University of Wisconsin
“The recommendation to vaccinate (pets) annually is becoming less acceptable given the increasing number of adverse effects, especially the ones that cause a severe illness or even death, and given the growing number of available vaccines.”
- Basic immunization against feline panleukopenia is useful and efficacious.
- Basic immunization against cat flu can be useful depending on the environment. Its effectiveness is moderate.
- Have your cat vaccinated with single vaccines at all times, rather than with combination preparations.
- Give preference to live (attenuated) vaccines and avoid vaccines containing adjuvants by all means.
- Have your cat vaccinated against rabies only when the cat enjoys the outdoor world in a rabies area, or when it is legislatively required. In this case, give preference to vaccines that require revaccination once every three years. There is no adjuvant-free rabies vaccine available in Germany today.
- Avoid vaccination against FeLV, FIP and FIV, because their efficacy is more than questionable.
- Have your cat vaccinated in its hind legs, and take a note of the vaccination spot, as well as the vaccine. Never let your pet vaccinated between the shoulders and also avoid the side of the chest if possible.
If you have further, specific questions about vaccination schedules, vaccines or risks, if you are interested in cat vaccination literature or trials, do not hesitate to contact us. We are happy to help you.