Rabies Vaccinations for Staff
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More on rabies vaccinations for veterinary workers.

animal handling There are many misconceptions about this process and the vaccine that is used. Many people still remember the sometimes severe side effects of the original vaccine. In the "old days," the only available vaccine was derived from duck eggs. Duck embryo (DE) vaccines were primarily used for post-exposure treatment because they had many side effects and since the treatment regime was rather long, the series was known to cause severe discomfort and pain.

Fortunately, in the early 1980's a new form of vaccine became widely available in the U.S. Unlike it's predecessor, the new Human Diploid Cell Vaccine (HDCV) was derived from human tissue strains and provided greater immunity with less pain or side effects.

Today, the vaccine is widely available and used routinely with little or no adverse reactions reported. Comparing the risks of the disease with the cost and benefits of the HDCV pre-exposure plan, it is certainly advisable that all veterinary healthcare workers in a rabies endemic area be protected.

The HDCV is sold in the US under the brand names Imovax from Sanofi Pasteur and RabAvertTM  produced by Novartis/Chiron Corp.

Under FDA rules, the manufacturer or distributor can only sell the vaccine to licensed physicians, so veterinary practices can not purchase the vaccine directly. However, many veterinary hospital administrators have made arrangements with the local health departments to procure and administer the series at a vary affordable fee. Some local veterinary associations have made the same arrangements for all the veterinary hospitals in the area.

For pre-exposure vaccinations, satisfactory response (immunization) is achieved in 2 weeks with an IM vaccination according to Aventis Pasteur literature. Although it varies Currently, the vaccine for a little over $100.00 per dose.

A pre-exposure series involves the administration of three doses of the vaccine given on days 0,7, and 21 or 28. Since these pre-exposure vaccinations involve relatively small doses and are spread out over weeks, rather than days, they are usually given in the upper arm (deltoid) area of the body with little or no discomfort.

For the veterinary healthcare worker, the advantages of pre-exposure vaccination include:

  • a level of already established protection against the disease,
  • the use of an abbreviated post-exposure regime if actual rabies exposure occurs, and
  • the psychological comfort associated with knowing that rabies among recipients of the pre-exposure series is almost non-existent.

Adequate protection levels can be assured by blood tests approximately every 2 years; a titre of 1:5 or greater is considered acceptable. Re-vaccination should only be done when the titre falls below this level. Public health departments or private physicians can obtain this test.

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The information on these pages is excerpted from
The Complete Veterinary Practice Regulatory Compliance Manual (5th Edition)  by Philip J. Seibert, Jr., CVT,
Copyright 2003 Philip J. Seibert, Jr., CVT  All Rights Reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced for distribution without prior permission from the publisher.


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This page was last updated on 01/24/14.

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Philip J. Seibert, Jr., CVT, 1998-2014 - All Rights Reserved