Market Watch: Risk assessment as a tool for vaccine decisions

Market Watch: Risk assessment as a tool for vaccine decisions

Why noncore vaccination may be a misnomer, depending on a pet's situation
Jan 01, 2012

Every medical decision, every recommendation, every medical option we present to a client must be based on some parameters—some differentials that represent the value of the options we present. To make a recommendation that has not been well-considered or, just as bad, to not make a recommendation that is valid and appropriate does not serve the pet, the client or the veterinarian. We should always make the best and most appropriate recommendation, or we fail our oath. It is always incumbent upon the veterinarian to discuss the benefits of preventive care and the value of wellness.

Fortunately, we are not asked to make uninformed recommendations. The value and benefit of preventive dental care, surgical sterilization, appropriate nutrition and parasite prevention and control have all been well-documented. And relevant and individually appropriate recommendations are clearly founded and defensible based on a pet's age; lifestyle, including geographic considerations; and objective, physical findings.

Preventive vaccination

One of the most effective and most flexible wellness procedures available to healthcare providers is preventive vaccination. No so long ago, deadly diseases such as canine distemper, canine hepatitis and, more recently, canine parvovirus were rampant and sickened and killed millions of dogs, while feline panleukopenia virus, feline leukemia virus and serious respiratory viruses did the same in cat populations. Today, vaccine technologies have done much to reduce the incidence of these diseases. In fact, some young veterinarians have never seen a case of canine distemper, feline panleukopenia virus or, thankfully, rabies.

Surely much of the pride in the accomplishment of effective prevention goes to our industry allies who have developed, improved and marketed extremely safe and effective vaccines. But not all of the glory goes to industry. Veterinarians witnessed firsthand the suffering and devastation these diseases caused in their communities. They accepted the fact that vaccines at the time were something less than totally effective and somewhat less than risk-free. Had we as a profession waited for everything we have now in vaccines, we would have watched millions of pets die needlessly. As Vince Lombardi said, "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence." And we have some excellent vaccines—not perfect, but excellent.