Vaccinations and their timing

Published 4:52 pm Monday, February 20, 2012

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

How many of us have worried that our B cells and T cells would not respond aggressively enough to the adjuvant and viral components just injected into our arms?

More of us than you might imagine.

If you have had a flu shot and wondered if it would keep you well, then you have contemplated your B and T cells and your body’s ability to create immunity.

The concern where immunity is involved is how long a duration and how much protection can be created.

The concept behind vaccination is simple. Expose the body to the organism, or some part of the organism, that causes a disease and allow the immune system to create cells that attack and kill the organism.

How well vaccination works depends on how strong a response the body produces and how long the cells that are created survive.

Each vaccine comes with requirements. For instance, how many injections are needed when it is used the first time. Possibly one or two, given at two- to three-week intervals. When given in series, the multiple injections serve to increase the body’s response. Some vaccinations must be repeated yearly. The reasoning is that by giving the vaccine repeatedly the immune response is rebuilt each year.

Not every body responds to vaccination the same way. Two bodies injected with the same vaccine can have different responses. One might produce enough response so no further vaccination is needed. The other body might produce such a small response that it is only protected for six weeks.

Why is this important? Why do we care about how immunity works?

Without immunity, diseases would be hard to stop. We need to understand immunity so we make the right decisions about vaccinating ourselves and our pets. If we do not have this understanding, we will be unable to protect ourselves and our pets from common conditions.

One such common condition is Rabies. Recently the state of Alabama changed the requirements for Rabies vaccination. Each pet is required to have an initial Rabies vaccine followed by a booster vaccination in one year. After the second vaccination, the pet is considered protected for three years. Last fall, a dog was diagnosed with Rabies in Ohio.

The dog was 3 years old and had been previously vaccinated for Rabies but missed a booster shot by 13 months.

Immunity can be a matter of life and death for you and your pets. Make sure your pets return to their veterinarian for all their scheduled vaccinations.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian with Shelbiana Animal Clinic, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach them at 669-7717.