Guidelines draw mixed industry reaction


Industry applauds the effort invested in the American Animal Hospital Association's (AAHA) canine vaccine guidelines, but critics question the execution and data to support the recommendations.

Industry applauds the effort invested in the American Animal Hospital Association's (AAHA) canine vaccine guidelines, but critics question the execution and data to support the recommendations.

Taking them to task are Merial and Biocor, who admonish the associationfor not inviting industry input.

In a written statement, Biocor notes it communicated with the task forcethat their lack of contact with the animal health industry appeared "tohave provided for an analytical environment where instructive comment wasabsent from those very organizations that could have provided acutely criticalinsights"

Zack Mills, DVM, director of marketing for the biologicals and therapeuticpharmaceuticals for Merial Ltd., adds that although AAHA invited industryto review the guidelines, companies weren't asked to contribute their owndata supporting use of specific vaccines.

Furthermore, upon final review of the guidelines, Mills says he disputesthey are based on solid science.

"When it comes down to duration of immunity with vaccines, thereis no solid science," says Mills. "They're using a limited amountof data and saying yes, these vaccines do last longer than a year's timeperiod." (Merial vaccines carry labels based on one year of immunity.)

In a statement, Fort Dodge Animal Health adds, "Until more conclusivescientific evidence exists supporting a shift in vaccination protocol, wewill continue to recommend the vaccination schedules approved by the USDAon our product labels."

Ralph Barrett, DVM, on the AAHA canine guidelines task force, concedesthe guidelines are a work in progress.

"These are recommendations based on the present state of our knowledgeabout the value of vaccinations and the risk of side effects," saysBarrett, chief of medicine of National PetCare Centers, Fort Collins, Colo."It will be controversial because the science is not complete."

But Ronald Schultz, Ph.D., who significantly contributed to the researchbehind the guidelines, says the research is there. Schultz, an immunologistat the University of Wisconsin, says he and other researchers have testedvaccines on more than 500 client-owned animals, as well as Beagle colonies,Dalmatians, Coonhounds and Labrador Retrievers.

"Nothing in the document that we've made recommendations for can'tbe demonstrated to be true," he adds.

Outcast vaccines

As for the vaccines AAHA is not recommending, Mills fervently disagrees.

"There are times and needs for every vaccine that's out there. It'sup to the veterinarian to make the right decision as to what antigens thedog should have and how often the dog should be vaccinated," he says.

But Barrett defends AAHA's position.

"With reasoned information published that there can be risks andside effects of using vaccinations, we shouldn't use a product that haspotential risk if we don't have to," he says. "If you don't vaccinatethem every year, you're reducing the risk of side effects, vaccine reactions,autoimmune diseases, and other types of risks."

No beefs

Ralph Massimmei, spokesman for Intervet, had no qualms with AAHA's recommendations.

"I don't have any particular beef with the guidelines. I think theindustry needs to respond to the needs of veterinarians. This is one moreopportunity to respond to them while still accommodating the safety andhealth concerns of their clients and patients," he says.

Schultz stresses the goal of the AAHA recommendations is not to eliminatevaccines. "It's important for us to continue to get the message outthat vaccines, especially core vaccines, are important and should actuallybe given to more animals than are getting them now, but maybe shouldn'tbe given as often."

Underlying message

In the end, as AAHA notes in its closing statements, the decision tovaccinate should be left in the hands of the veterinarian.

Biocor couldn't agree more. "Any and all recommendations aside,Biocor Animal Health feels strongly that final decisions regarding an individualpatient's vaccination protocol must be determined by its veterinarian afterdue consideration of the animal's risk of exposure," the company saidin a statement.

Merial, Intervet and Fort Dodge all concur.

Fort Dodge states that it "strongly encourages veterinarians toevaluate each pet and together with the pet's owner, decide the vaccinationprotocol that will provide the animal with the best protection based onrisk assessment."

Pfizer declined comment. Schering-Plough did not return calls seekingcomment.

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