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NOAH: ‘Vaccine hesitancy’ could lead to deadly mistakes

Mistaken beliefs about pet vaccines and a growing hesitancy towards vaccination could give rise to deadly diseases that not only affect companion animals but also people, animal medicine association National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) has warned.

With PDSA’s annual PAW Report signalling a 7% drop in vaccination rates for both dogs and cats between 2011 and 2017, and only 50% rabbits receiving a primary vaccination when young in 2017, with 55% not receiving their annual booster vaccinations vaccine coverage is falling dangerously low for achieving the 70% coverage recommended to ensure “herd immunity”, which means pets could once again be at risk from painful and potentially deadly illnesses.

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.

“There are also some misconceptions: for example, many cat owners believe that indoor cats do not need vaccinations. Unfortunately, cats can still contract disease even when kept indoors, even though the risk is lower. Some of the diseases we vaccinate cats against can only be passed on via direct contact, however a few can also be brought in from outside by their owners.”

She added: “The consequences of the ‘anti-vaxx movement’ in human medicine in the United States 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 young.

“Vaccine hesitancy has been named by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the top 10 health threats of the year. 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 pets.”

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