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How Healthy Are You?

Pet Vaccinations on The Decline

Humans & Furry Friends at Risk

Pet Vaccinations on The Decline

By John Salak –

Declining pet vaccination rates not only pose a growing health challenge to people and their pets, they may also be linked to the increased hesitancy of some people to receive their own vaccinations.

Texas A&M University School of Public Health arrived at these conclusions after analyzing data from more than 2,000 dog owners and more than 1.400 cat owners.

“Decreasing pet vaccination rates pose challenges to society for a number of reasons, including increased incidents of pet disease and death, increases in exposures for humans, the potential for further genetic adaptations of pathogens, as well as detrimental effects on veterinarians,” reported Simon Haeder, Ph.D., an associate professor who analyzed that data.

“Many individuals consider their pets as part of the family and increases in vaccine-preventable diseases may also affect the financial and emotional health of owners,” he added.

The data analyzed covered whether respondents owned a dog or cat; their pet’s vaccine status for five diseases; how they perceived the safety, efficacy and importance of the various pet vaccines; and their level of trust in scientists, support for human vaccination mandates for children, political ideology, religiosity, non-veterinary expenses and frequency of exposure of dogs to other dogs outside the household.

The survey found that an overwhelming majority of pet owners had vaccinated their dogs and cats against rabies, though cats were vaccinated less often than dogs. Other core vaccines had slightly lower, but still high uptake, while there appeared to be more hesitancy toward non-core vaccines.

Not surprisingly, a pet owner’s perceptions of the importance, efficacy and safety of vaccines served as a reasonable predictor for vaccine hesitancy.

Lastly, pet vaccination behaviors and perceptions appear to be less associated with political ideology than with human vaccines. Additionally, the analysis found relations between vaccine hesitancy in humans and animals, with support for animal vaccine requirements being strongly associated with similar requirements for humans.

The Texas A&M study somewhat mirrored earlier work last year by Boston University. This study found that U.S. dog owners who harbor mistrust in the safety and efficacy of childhood and adult vaccines are also more likely to hold negative views about vaccinating their four-legged friends.

Boston University reported that nearly 40 percent of dog owners believe that canine vaccines are unsafe, more than 20 percent believe these vaccines are ineffective and 30 percent consider them to be medically unnecessary.

“The vaccine spillover effects that we document in our research underscore the importance of restoring trust in human vaccine safety and efficacy,” says study lead and corresponding author Matt Motta, an assistant professor at Boston University. “If non-vaccination were to become more common, our pets, vets and even our friends and family risk coming into contact with vaccine-preventable diseases.”

The concerns raised by both universities underscore a potentially serious and widespread threat to public health in the U.S.

“Concerns about growing hesitancy remain and should be taken seriously, for both pets and humans, before the United States falls below important thresholds to prevent major outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Haeder warned.

 

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