In 2003, the Texas Administrative Code allowed triennial rabies vaccination for the first time. Despite this, members of the veterinary community voiced their concerns that moving to the three year vaccine would confuse pet owners and they would ‘forget’ to vaccinate their animals. They claimed it would be a public health threat.
To determine the consequences of introducing triennial vaccination on rabies vaccination rates in Texas, an observational study was conducted using data obtained from the Texas Department of Health’s Rabies Incident Report database. The use of this data provided a random sample of animals along with their current rabies vaccination status.
Records prior to 2003 indicate the rabies vaccination rate was 49% of the sampled dogs and cats. After 2003, the vaccination rate went up to 60%.
It seems the vets who opposed triennial rabies vaccination were wrong on three accounts.
One, pet owners aren’t all that forgetful at all.
Two, there was no public health threat by moving to triennial vaccination. In fact, since their goal was more vaccinated dogs and cats, quite the opposite happened.
Three, vets were wrong to assume that forgetting to revaccinate a dog or cat against rabies would be a public health threat in the first place. That’s because it is very likely that rabies vaccination will protect the animal for life. Dr. Ronald Schultz showed rabies vaccination to be effective for at least 7 years by serology (7 years was the duration of his study, not the maximum duration of immunity for the rabies vaccine). Results of a 1992 French challenge study led by Michel Aubert demonstrated dogs were immune to rabies for at least five years after vaccination.
The rabies vaccine is one of the most dangerous vaccines for our dogs with a long list of potential adverse events. Given the above information, it seems that vets would be pushing for fewer rabies vaccines, not more.