NOAH has reiterated the importance of regular vaccination on World Animal Vaccination Day (20 April).
Mistaken beliefs about pet vaccines and a growing hesitancy towards vaccination reported among owners could give rise to deadly diseases that not only affect companion animals, but also people, the organisation warns.
The words of caution come after PDSA’s annual PAW Report revealed a 7% drop in vaccination rates for both dogs and cats between 2011 and 2017.
This is in addition to the fact that, in 2017, only 50% of rabbits received a primary vaccination when young, with 55% not receiving their annual booster vaccinations at all1.
This, NOAH says, shows that vaccine coverage is falling dangerously low for achieving the 70% coverage recommended to ensure “herd immunity”, meaning pets could once again be at risk from painful and potentially deadly illnesses.
Their concerns chime with statistics from the BVA’s Voice of the Profession survey, where 95% of vets revealed clients’ questions were influenced by their own internet searches.
Furthermore, 90% of those felt clients were finding their information about vaccinations mainly from non-veterinary sources.
NOAH chief executive Dawn Howard said: “Vaccination has, to some extent, been a victim of its own success, as many pet owners no longer see preventable diseases, such as parvovirus or distemper in dogs, first hand. Therefore, they may not feel it is necessary to keep their animal protected. Vaccination by responsible owners has kept many diseases in check, but control is not the same as eradication.”
She continued: “The consequences of the ‘anti-vaxx movement’ in human medicine in the US has led to an emergency outbreak of measles being declared in New York state. Measles cases in the UK increased sharply in 2018: disease came mainly from Europe, but spread particularly in teenagers who had missed out on vaccinations when they were young2.
Vaccine hesitancy has been named by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the top 10 health threats of the year3. It has been suggested by a leading vet that lack of uptake in the veterinary medicine sector could similarly increase the risk of previously eradicated or seldom seen diseases in our pets4.”
Ms Howard says, it is important to overcome these barriers to vaccination by helping educate pet owners, farmers and the public on the benefits, as well as the safety, efficacy and working mechanisms of vaccination.
She added: “To help do this, NOAH supports World Animal Vaccination Day, an initiative of global animal health association HealthforAnimals and the World Veterinary Association.”