Lifelong Immunity – Why Vets Are Pushing Back

Written by Jan on December 14, 2011 – 1:02 am

Why do vets continue to vaccinate yearly or triennially when many vaccines have been shown to give immunity as long as the pet’s lifetime? Read this article from our friends at Dogs Naturally Magazine.

The duration of immunity for Rabies vaccine, Canine distemper vaccine, Canine Parvovirus vaccine, Feline Panleukopenia vaccine, Feline Rhinotracheitis, feline Calicivirus, have all been demonstrated to be a minimum of 7 years by serology [blood antibody testing] for rabies and challenge [exposure] studies for all others. [Note: bracketed explanations added by Jan Rasmusen.]

In the Duration of Immunity to Canine Vaccines: What We Know and What We Don’t Know, Proceedings – Canine Infectious Diseases: From Clinics to Molecular Pathogenesis, Ithaca, NY, 1999, Dr. Ronald Schultz, a veterinary immunologist at the forefront of vaccine research and chair of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Pathobiological Sciences, outlines the DOI for the following vaccines:

Minimum Duration of Immunity for Canine Vaccines:

Distemper- 7 years by challenge/15 years by serology
Parvovirus – 7 years by challenge/ 7 years by serology
Adenovirus – 7 years by challenge/ 9 years by serology
Canine rabies – 3 years by challenge/ 7 years by serology

Dr. Schultz concludes: “Vaccines for diseases like distemper and canine parvovirus, once administered to adult animals, provide lifetime immunity.” “Are we vaccinating too much?” JAVMA, No. 4, August 15, 1995, pg. 421.

Yet vets continue to vaccinate annually. Dog owners feel that their vets are doing their dogs a great service by vaccinating every three years instead of annually – why do we allow it when these studies were done over thirty years ago and have been replicated time and again by other researchers?

Ian Tizard states: “With modified live virus vaccines like canine parvovirus, canine distemper and feline panleukopenia, calicivirus, and rhinotracheitis the virus in the vaccine must replicate to stimulate the immune system. In a patient that has been previously immunized, antibodies from the previous vaccine will block the replication of the new vaccinal virus. Antibody titers are not significantly boosted. Memory cell populations are not expanded. The immune status of the patient is not enhanced.

After the second rabies vaccination, re-administration of rabies vaccine does not enhance the immune status of the patient at one or two year intervals. We do not know the interval at which re-administration of vaccines will enhance the immunity of a significant percentage of the pet population, but it is certainly not at one or two year intervals.
Tizard Ian, Yawei N, Use of serologic testing to assess immune status of companion animals, JAVMA, vol 213, No 1, July 1, 1998.

“The recommendation for annual re-vaccination is a practice that was officially started in 1978.” says Dr. Schultz. “This recommendation was made without any scientific validation of the need to booster immunity so frequently. In fact the presence of good humoral antibody levels blocks the anamnestic response to vaccine boosters just as maternal antibody blocks the response in some young animals.”

He adds: “The patient receives no benefit and may be placed at serious risk when an unnecessary vaccine is given. Few or no scientific studies have demonstrated a need for cats or dogs to be revaccinated. Annual vaccination for diseases caused by CDV, CPV2, FPLP and FeLV has not been shown to provide a level of immunity any different from the immunity in an animal vaccinated and immunized at an early age and challenged years later. We have found that annual revaccination with the vaccines that provide long-term immunity provides no demonstrable benefit.”

Why then, have vets not embraced the concept of lifelong immunity in dogs?

“Profits are what vaccine critics believe is at the root of the profession’s resistance to update its protocols. Without the lure of vaccines, clients might be less inclined to make yearly veterinary visits. Vaccines add up to 14 percent of the average practice’s income, AAHA reports, and veterinarians stand to lose big. I suspect some are ignoring my work,” says Schultz, who claims some distemper vaccines last as long as 15 years. “Tying vaccinations into the annual visit became prominent in the 1980s and a way of practicing in the 1990s. Now veterinarians don’t want to give it up.”

The report of the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Taskforce in JAAHA (39 March/April 2003)3 includes the following information for vets: ‘Misunderstanding, misinformation and the conservative nature of our profession have largely slowed adoption of protocols advocating decreased frequency of vaccination’; ‘Immunological memory provides durations of immunity for core infectious diseases that far exceed the traditional recommendations for annual vaccination.’

‘This is supported by a growing body of veterinary information as well-developed epidemiological vigilance in human medicine that indicates immunity induced by vaccination is extremely long lasting and, in most cases, lifelong.’

Both the AAHA and the AVMA must do more to “step up to the plate” says noted immunologist, Dr. Richard Ford. But the reality is the vets do not have to listen to the AAHA or the AVMA and it appears the state veterinary medical boards are not interested in enforcing vaccine schedules, opting to leave it up to the individual vet.

Dr. Bob Rogers hired a Chicago based law firm and initiated a class action suit for pet owners who were not given informed consent and full disclosure prior to vaccination administration. His article entitled “The Courage to Embrace the Truth”, states “While attending conferences like WSVMA and NAVMC I have asked over 400 DVMs from various parts of the country if they attended the seminars on New Vaccination Protocols. I was told by all but one, “I don’t care what the data says, I am not changing.” One DVM here on VIN even said “I am not changing until the AVMA makes me change.”

It seems that pet owners are against the wall when it comes to vaccination. The obvious conclusion is that pet owners who are concerned about the long term health of their companion animals must take it upon themselves to research vaccines, duration of immunity and vaccine dangers. At the very least, question every vaccine that goes into your animal – but none of the above information indicates you will get an honest or well-informed answer.

Be your dog’s advocate – protect him with knowledge and by taking a stand against unnecessary vaccination. His life may depend on it!
Related links at
Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots
Titer Test: Don’t Vaccinate Your Dog Unnecessarily
What to Do When Your Dog Has a Vaccine Reaction
Rabies Vaccination: 13 Ways to Vaccinate More Safely
Protecting Dogs From Vaccine Reactions
Analyzing New Vaccination Recommendations for Dogs

Dogs Naturally Magazine publishes excellent articles on holistic dog care from recognized authorities on a wealth of canine health subjects. They’ve even published a number of articles by me, Jan Rasmusen!  Many thanks to veterinarian Patricia Monahan Jordan, author of Mark of the Beast: Hidden in Plain Sight, for contributing much of the source material for this article.




Posted under Uncategorized, Vaccination, Veterinarians | 9 Comments » Email This Post

9 Comments to “Lifelong Immunity – Why Vets Are Pushing Back”

  1. Linda Brunner Says:

    So good to see this information getting out. I wish that the rescues that take it already severely stressed animals and vaccinate and initiate often too early surgeries would get on board. They are often well intentioned but a bit hysterical and/or under the wing of a vet for low cost surgeries. Money money money rules.

  2. Carolyn in Belize Says:

    Thanks for keeping us informed on this important topic. I am more than happy to pay for an annual health and wellness checkup for my dog, in lieu of unnecessary vaccinations. Now to find a vet that will go support that …

  3. cindi Says:

    What about the states that mandate proof of rabies vaccination to issue dog licenses? My state, MA, does not recognize titres so I have no choice but to vaccinate my dog every 3 years to stay within the law and get him licensed. My vet recommended NOT vaccinating him with anything else, he’s 9, as he’s more than protected. So, I break the law, don’t vaccinate and don’t license, or stay within the law, vaccinate to license my dog. Not much of a choice.

  4. Jan Says:

    Cindi, if your dog has health problems, you may be able to get an exemption. If your vet won’t help you, I can recommend another vet depending on where you live. Here’s the law in MA but check the state source to make sure it’s up to date. I think it is.

    MASSACHUSETTS Rabies Law (WITH medical exemption) — The General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 140: Section 145B. Vaccination against rabies; certificate; tag; proof of vaccination; penalty Section 145B. Whoever is the owner or keeper of a dog or cat in the commonwealth six months of age or older shall cause such dog or cat to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian using a licensed vaccine according to the manufacturer’s directions, and shall cause such dog or cat to be revaccinated at intervals recommended by the manufacturer.

    In order for a dog or cat to be accepted at an animal hospital, veterinarian’s office or boarding facility an owner or keeper of such animal shall show proof of current vaccination against rabies; provided however, that if a dog or cat has not been so vaccinated or such owner or keeper fails to show such proof the animal shall be vaccinated against rabies prior to being discharged if the animal’s medical condition permits. Massachusetts Rabies Immunization Program for Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets
    Chapter 141, Section 145B of the Massachuetts General Laws and 105 Code of Massachusetts (CMR) 330 require that all dogs and cats in Masschusetts be vaccinated against rabies. Provisions of the law include vaccination of all dogs and cats by six months of age, use of a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine, use of a uniform vaccination certificate, National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) form #51, and a rabies tag provided by the vaccinating veterinarian.

    Chapter 140, Section 137
    § 137. Registration and licenses: No town clerk or, in Boston, the police commissioner, shall grant such license for any dog unless the owner thereof provides such town clerk or, in Boston, the police commissioner, either a veterinarian’s certification that such dog has been vaccinated in accordance with the provisions of section one hundred and forty-five B, or has been certified exempt from such provision as hereinafter provided, or a notarized letter from a veterinarian that a certification was issued or a metal rabies tag bearing an expiration date indicating that such certification is still in effect.

    A dog licensing official may grant an exemption from the provisions of section one hundred and forty-five B for any dog which has not yet attained the age of six months, any dog which the local board of health, for a specified period of time, declared exempt upon presentation of a veterinarian’s certificate stating that because of an infirmity, other physical condition or regimen of therapy, that inoculation is thereby deemed inadvisable, or any dog in transit, or dog brought into the commonwealth, temporarily, for the sole purpose of showing in dog shows or exhibition.

  5. Bethany Says:

    Jan – after reading this, and many of your other articles, I’m wondering if perhaps you would consider writing an article to help those of us who flat-out REFUSE to kill our pets through over-vaccinations (I suspect often those people are ones, like me, who believe they have already – accidently, of course – contributed to an older pet’s demise through years of totally trusting and following their vet’s advise, and now refuse to go down that ugly road again!).

    My problem is this: What, if anything, can we possibly say to all those friends and family members who mention to us that their beloved ‘Fido’ is going (or has just gone) in for their yearly shots?? The select few times I have (carefully) mentioned the dangers of over-vaccinating, it becomes crystal clear that they trust their vet’s advise a gazillion times more than they trust totally UN-medically educated me!! Then if I just keep my mouth shut, I feel guilty about that… what’s the best way to handle this extremely uncomfortable situation?

    While I can understand why vets don’t want to lose profits from vaccinating farther and fewer between, I do NOT understand why titer tests do not get nearly the credit or recongnition they deserve. A ten year old dog can legally be put down if it bites someone and does not have a current rabies certificate – even while the current rabies titer shows an “extremely high” level!? So either the owner risks Round 2 of losing a pet to IMHA (or some other God-awful issue) by adding yet one more dose to that already ‘extremely high’ level, or they risk losing their pet to animal control…. obviously both these choices TOTALLY stink!! 🙁

  6. Jan Says:

    Hi Bethany. I completely understand your anger. That’s why I write the articles at and wrote my book (Scared Poopless: The Straight Scoop on Dog Care) in the first place.

    There are lots of articles that might interest you, particularly Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots You could forward it to friends. I also have the country’s two top vaccination experts on a DVD. See All proceeds benefit the Rabies Challenge Fund’s valuable work on the rabies vaccine safety.

    Some people who have my book have copied the vaccination chapter and passed it around to friends and even their vets. It’s light in tone and is told from a dog’s perspective.

    Other than that: keep trying to spread the word. If they have closed minds, at least you tried. You’ll get through to some of them eventually.

  7. Lorrie Says:

    Hi Jan,
    Do you know of any studies that have suggested lack of response to the vaccine to be (or not be) inherited?

    Thank you for your time, and the work you do to better the health of dogs.

  8. Jan Says:

    Lorrie, yes, these dogs are called non-responders. If you suspect this in a family of dogs, write again. I’ll put you in touch with experts. Q: Have you done titer testing on the subjects?

  9. anaphylactoid reaction from booster shot - Page 2 - Forums - Yorkshire Terrier Community Says:

    […] up to date on. There are studies by Dr. Schultz that show seven years for parvo and distemper…. Lifelong Vaccine Immunity — Why Vets Are Pushing Back | Truth4Dogs Vaccines carry risks just like any other medical procedure, you as the pet owner should be the […]

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