No Vaccines, Or Too Few Vaccines: A Threat for People and Pets


The World Health Organization (WHO) listed “vaccine hesitancy” — defined as the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate, despite the availability of vaccines — among the top 10 health threats of 2019.

Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways to avoid disease, preventing two to three million deaths annually, according to the organization. An additional 1.5 million more deaths could be prevented if vaccines were more widely available globally. With a vaccine on board, typically there’s no need for treatment because disease is prevented, which also saves millions in medical costs across the globe.

People who need vaccines aren’t getting them. People who can get vaccines are now sometimes refusing them.

Measles is one disease that was nearly eliminated by vaccinations, but there has been a 30 percent increase in cases globally, according to WHO.

Crazy, the voluntary trend not to vaccinate – called Anti-Vaxxers – has now crossed over to pets. And just as people are being threatened, now so are pets.

Certainly, it’s true, some individual veterinarians may over-vaccinate. But not to vaccinate at all makes no scientific sense, and only allows disease to resurface as has occurred with measles, according to the WHO. Among pets, this has been shown in canine distemper, as one example. When too few vaccinate for distemper the disease surfaces and kills puppies. Other examples include the dog flu (which there are vaccines for) and vaccinating for leptospirosis. Veterinary Guidelines for vaccines suggest considering a pet’s individual lifestyle. Social dogs can get flu, and dog outside near bodies of water as large as lakes and as small as puddles should be considered for the lepto vaccine.

I spoke about leptospirosis on WGN radio with Dr. Natalie Marks. Vaccinate, and you are not only way enhancing the odds your dog won’t get sick, but also vaccinating  your own dog benefits the community as a whole. In the case of lepto, vaccinating dogs may even protect people since both dogs and people can actually get sick.

Yes, it’s true, hygiene and lifestyle are exceedingly different in nations that don’t vaccinate for lepto, but they wish they could vaccinate dogs – a somewhat common transmitter of the disease to people. Actually, dogs generally get lepto most often from wildlife, even city rats, or from infected dogs. Leptospirosis happens when an infected animal urinates in water, and the dog steps in it (later licking paws) or drinks the water  We can vaccinate to protect our dogs.