Truths About Vaccinations
Is it an alternative to vaccination?
Titre testing (blood testing to check for adequate levels of protective antibodies) is being proposed as an alternative to unnecessary vaccination in pets.
So is there anything wrong with that? Well actually, yes! Titre testing is fine in theory, but in practice it is a somewhat different and more complicated story.
Firstly, titre testing is not 100% accurate. It cannot distinguish between antibodies from the mother and self-produced antibodies in puppies and kittens. Neither can it always detect true protective levels of antibody. This means that you can have a negative titre test in an animal this is still adequately protected. The problem is that you cannot be certain if the animal is protected or not which rather defeats the objective of titre testing.
The second problem area is the extra costs involved. The actual titre test kit only costs around £9.00. However, on top of that, you have the costs of taking the blood for the test, the cost of someone to run the 30 minute test and then the cost of someone to interpret the results of that test. On top of that, you have the cost of the vaccinations for any of the diseases that the test flags up as having inadequate protection. Additionally, you have the cost of other vaccinations, such as Leptospirosis in dogs, for which there is currently no commercially available low-cost titre test.
But the real problem with titre testing as an alternative to vaccination is that it fails to understand the whole premise behind vaccination of individuals and populations of animals.
Titre tests check antibody levels at one point in time. The suggestion is that such tests might need to be done every 1-3 years. But how would anyone know if the protective antibody levels had slipped to unprotective levels sometime between those tests and thereby leaving a pet susceptible to potentially fatal disease? How would you feel if that was your animal? Routine vaccination of all dogs and cats is the best way we have currently of ensuring, as far as is possible, that your pet has continual protection against a number of potentially fatal diseases.
Vaccination is not 100% effective, but as has been highly publicised recently with the resurgence of human measles epidemics in the UK, effective population protection relies on a high percentage of the population having protective immunity, something that is only achieved by mass vaccination.
There will be individual pets that continue to carry adequate immunity, but there will also be animals that don’t. Which is which? Titre testing can distinguish some of these animals, but routine vaccination will provide effective protection all of the time.
The term “booster” vaccination is very appropriate – it provides a pet with a boost to their immunity against specific diseases to help ensure they continue to have adequate protection for at least a further 1-3 years – something which is scientifically proven to be the case.
Clients often ask if their older pets need continued booster vaccinations? The answer is yes, and even more so probably than younger pets. Why? Well, for the same reasons as we humans start getting annual ‘flu vaccines when we get to 60 – our immune system is not as good at fending off disease and needs a boost to give adequate protection. Or perhaps we could risk trying titre testing our senior citizens instead?