To vaccinate or not to vaccinate (Pig Tales)
(Editor’s note: Dr. Rich Barczewski is a retired professor at Delaware State University.)
There have been several advances in science over the past 140-plus years that have had a profound impact on both animal and human health.
One advancement was the development of antibiotics, which provided a way to treat bacterial diseases.
Antibiotics were discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, a Scottish Physician and Microbiologist.
The second advancement was the development of vaccines that provides information necessary for the body to mount an immune response against various diseases that enabled the vaccinated animal or person to protect themselves from disease.
Most of us may remember studying about Edward Jenner who, in 1796, developed a method of vaccinating people for smallpox.
In that case, Jenner used material from cows exhibiting cow pox in humans and found that that material protected people from getting small pox which was a deadly scourge at the time.
A little over 80 years later in the 1880s another famous scientist, Louis Pasteur developed a vaccine for cholera, followed by another vaccine for rabies and later still, another scientist, Emil Von Behring developed a vaccine for tetanus.
So vaccines, and the use of vaccines to protect folks from disease has been around a long time.
There are many, many types of vaccines in existence and to be perfectly honest, if you vaccinated your livestock for all the diseases for which a vaccine was available, you would most likely end up in the poor house. That said, livestock producers have to decide which diseases they want to protect their animals from and which diseases present a lesser threat.
How do you decide? It comes down to surveying the environment in which you keep your livestock, discussing vaccine availability and efficacy with your veterinarian and coming up with a plan, specific for your farm that will give you the biggest bang for your buck while protecting your animals from those diseases that are most likely.
Any vaccination program should start with an assessment of which diseases are most likely in your region of the country.
Most veterinarians, who work with the species of animal that you keep will have an idea of which diseases are present.
That is why proper consultation with a vet is critical to coming up with a good herd health plan.
Some consideration should be given to vaccine efficacy, availability of proper storage, and cost relative to the apparent risk of the disease.
Another consideration is that many vaccines are packaged in combinations, so you may be able to vaccinate for multiple diseases with just one injection.
Like with human vaccines, some animal vaccines require multiple shots. In many cases, one dose is administered followed by a second dose three to four weeks later.
Many vaccines require two doses for maximum protection and then an annual booster shot to keep your immunity high.
Vaccines are important for our livestock, as a way to keep them healthy but they are also just as important for human health.
Currently, many folks will soon be offered the chance to be vaccinated for COVID-19 (if you have not been vaccinated yet) and this vaccine was developed using a newer technology.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines while the Astra Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines (yet to be released in the United States) are DNA vaccines.
While this technology is newer, do not think that it is untested.
These technologies were developed in the 1990’s (25 to 30 years ago) and originally the technology was used as part of a cancer treatment regime. Both the mRNA and DNA are destroyed by the cells after a couple of weeks, and these vaccines do not alter a person’s native DNA or mRNA.
According to information provided by the Delaware Coronavirus website, “mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine”.
All vaccines do come with minimal risks. Some have minor side effects, often something like a sore arm at the injection site or a slight fever or body aches as your body builds immunity against the disease-causing organism.
In rare cases, some folks have had allergic reactions to the vaccine but like I said, these are very rare.
But all that said, folks need to be aware that vaccines have been around for a long time and the use of vaccines to improve human health by protecting folks from disease is nothing new. If you get a fever or body ache, especially after the second dose, that means your immune system recognizes the organism and is working.
You may also want to know that in the phase three trial of the Moderna Vaccine, there were 30,000 volunteers and the Pfizer vaccine had 43,000 volunteers so these vaccines have been given to a lot of folks.
Do not allow naysayers, anti-vaxxers and other extremists scare you away from protecting yourself and your families. If you are unsure, talk to your doctor.
Like I have mentioned to many of my friends, I have recently gotten my first shot in mid-January and I’m looking forward to getting the second shot in a couple of weeks.
Most of the health experts agree that it is going to take 70 to 80 percent of the population being vaccinated or having survived COVID before we will be at the point where we start thinking about a return to a more normal world.