AAFP releases new vaccine guidelines


National Report - Described by insiders as "encyclopedic," AAFP's vaccine guidelines boil down to one ingredient: inoculation should be individualized, based on the patient's needs and risk-to-benefit ratio.

NATIONAL REPORT — Described by insiders as "encyclopedic," AAFP's vaccine guidelines boil down to one ingredient: inoculation should be individualized, based on the patient's needs and risk-to-benefit ratio.

Armed with that disclaimer, the American Association of Feline Practitioners' (AAFP) latest vaccine guidelines for cats is slated for publication in an October issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). While AAFP's effort appears more comprehensive since the group unveiled the profession's first vaccine guidelines in 1998 and a redrafted version in 2000, the addition of new drugs, vaccine preparations, legal considerations and shelter/multi-cat environment protocols make this 50-page document unique.

Two major changes for practitioners also set the work apart from previous guidelines released. The AAFP Feline Vaccine Advisory Panel now recommends scheduling panleukopenia virus, feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus vaccination at 16 weeks of age, up from 12 weeks, especially for animals from shelters. In addition, feline leukemia virus vaccine is highly recommended for all kittens due to subsequent exposure risks.

"These young animals with varying levels of maternally-derived antibodies may be exposed to overwhelming levels of infectious agents," says Dr. James Richards, AAFP spokesman and the panel's chair. "This report is really exciting. We have new vaccines, new duration of immunity info for core vaccines and we touch on cats in (trap-neuter-release) programs. Our charts incapsulate all of the panel's recommendations."


Charts outlining the panel's guidance were unavailable at presstime due to the report's pending release, but the lists break down by core, non-core and not generally recommended vaccines for cats. That makes side-by-side comparisons with the 2000 version tough since it categorized vaccines based on those highly recommended for all cats, recommended for use in specific populations of cats and not recommended for routine use.

"There are new recombinant products, a feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) vaccine hit the market — there was a lot more to consider this time around, and this was an easier way to classify everything," Richards says. "There also will be a table that includes all the vaccines currently available."

Practitioner reaction

Because the guidelines are under wraps, just a handful of veterinarians have seen the association's prepublication version. Dr. Bill Folger, AAFP member and owner of Memorial Cat Hospital in Houston, has reviewed the guidelines and says they're easier to understand and implement than previous reports. Yet he disagrees with the FIV vaccine's classification as non-core drug recommended in certain circumstances.

"I don't think FIV vaccine should be indicated for the same reason FIP vaccine shouldn't be used in cats — there are questions about its efficacy," he says. "I just got away from using the vaccine recently. Yet I understand the research that was behind the panel's decision. As far as kittens are concerned, I do believe it's a good idea to vaccinate them because leukemia is almost a completely preventable disease with just a few vaccinations. This issue is going to be a struggle for every veterinarian until more research is conducted."


The research the panel did consider is listed in the document's lengthy appendix. Panel member Dr. Ilona Rodan doesn't perceive the guidelines as contentious.

"We've relied on science to prove what we've come up with," she says. "We have new research that we've incorporated into new decisions. There will be some changes for practitioners, but compared to what we've done in the past, this is really pretty easy."

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