Value of Vaccination

World Veterinary Day is celebrated across the globe on last Saturday of April to highlight the importance and contributions of veterinarians to animal health and societal development. Every year, World Veterinary Association announces a theme for celebration; theme chosen for 2019 being the “Value of Vaccination”.

The 2019 theme reminds vets and medicos of an English physicist “Edward Jenner” who developed the smallpox vaccine, the world’s first vaccine. Jenner lived in the English countryside amongst farmers who tended cows. After hearing a milkmaid exclaim “I shall never have smallpox for I have had cowpox.

I shall never have an ugly pockmarked face”. His investigation revealed it true: milkmaids in the area that had been exposed to cowpox were immune to epidemics of smallpox. By transferring pus from one milkmaid to another, he effectively performed the first rudimentary inoculation of smallpox. Many years later Louis Pasteur, a French chemist, developed a vaccine against rabies. His process of vaccine development is the basis for most of our vaccines today.

Vaccines are one of the most valuable tools in any veterinarian’s arsenal. These protect the health of animals, livelihood of farmers and reduce the risk of human exposure to many zoonotic pathogens. Effective vaccination programs help reduce the need for antimicrobials, and can significantly reduce the risk of emergent antimicrobial resistance. Safe and effective animal vaccines are essential to modern society.

It would be impossible to produce enough animal protein to feed the people on earth without vaccines and to prevent epizootics in food-producing animals. Without companion animal vaccines (especially rabies vaccine), many people would not keep a pet in the household and would not experience the satisfaction of the human-animal bond.

Zoonotic diseases such as brucellosis and leptospirosis would be much more prevalent without effective vaccines. The impact of veterinary vaccines can be seen in view of Rinderpest disease and its public health impact. Initially, in Sub-Saharan Africa 90 % of cattle and large population of sheep and goats died due to Rinderpest. Wild buffalo, giraffe, and wildebeest population were decimated.

This resulted in mass starvation and killing of huge population of Ethopians, and formation of thickets in grasslands that served as breeding grounds for tsetse flies and outbreak of human trypanosomiasis. Rinderpest eradication through vaccination, local and international trade restrictions, and surveillance is considered as one of the greatest achievements of Veterinary Medicine.

The rabies vaccine is another example of the impact of a successful animal vaccine. Rabies vaccines for domestic animals and wildlife have nearly eliminated human rabies in developed countries. However, more than 55,000 people die of rabies every year in Asia and Africa and 98% of those cases are due to people being bitten by unvaccinated dogs.

This source of rabies in humans can be eliminated by adequate animal vaccination and control, educating those at risk, and enhancing access to appropriate medical care for the bitten. Affordability and availability of rabies vaccines, along with effective vaccination programs are key to changing the current situation.

Veterinary vaccines have a distinct advantage in that they can be developed and licensed much more quickly and at much less cost than human vaccines. This encourages more use of vaccines and less use of antibiotics in food animal system.

The ability to conduct safety and efficacy studies, including vaccination/challenge studies in the target species greatly facilitates licensing of veterinary vaccines.

Liability issues associated with adverse reactions for manufacturers are much less compared to human medicine. Proper standards and production controls are essential for ensuring quality products for animal disease control. Further, animal and human infectious disease experts need to work together to prepare for new and emerging diseases.

The World Veterinary Association and HealthforAnimals (a global animal medicines association) believe it is essential for the global veterinary profession to educate the public, particularly animal owners and producers, about the benefits of vaccination for animal, human, and public health. Veterinary associations through their activities at local/regional level should demonstrate their support of the “Value of Vaccination”. 

Faculty of Veterinary Sciences (SKUAST Kashmir) has the distinction of formulating a whole cell oil adjuvant vaccine against virulent foot rot. The pioneering work has been done by Prof Shakil A Wani, Director Education, SKUAST – K. The vaccine is claimed to have both prophylactic and therapeutic effect. It is seen as a ray of hope by sheep rearers. Recently, the varsity has signed an MoU with a Delhi-based pharma company for upscaling its production.

Hope the technology shall be transferred to the end-users on World Veterinary Day- 2019. Technology for preparing Sheep Pox vaccine stand already transferred to the development department. Work related to other vaccine-preventable diseases is in progress.

It is the right and ripe time for the custodians of veterinary profession to hold vaccination campaigns for the animals, educational seminars, media campaigns etc and pledge to carry out advanced research in the field of vaccinology to promote animal health and welfare so as to contribute to sustained development of the community.

I believe, this will improve the visibility and recognition of the veterinary profession in the state of Jammu & Kashmir that is craving for a sound and a well designed professional intervention in the livestock sector. Celebration of World Veterinary Day at Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Shuhama Alusteng is marked by month-long events including plantation drive, anti-rabies vaccination program (for pets), screening of livestock for Brucellosis, Mastitis etc, displaying of functional meat and milk products, and valuable livestock breeds, media campaigns, blood donation by the students and staff, sports and literary activities, and final observance on the last Saturday of April.

This all demonstrates the importance of Veterinary Profession in community development, poverty alleviation and potential to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal “Zero Hunger by 2030”.

Aijaz A Dar works at Division of Veterinary Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, FVSc & AH, Shuhama Alusteng

Views are personnel and don’t reflect the institution he works for