Letter from Bell County Resident
Below is a copy of a letter from Patti Emmerling (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Temple, Texas to the Bell County Commissioners. It, and her e-mail, are posted with her permission.
Judge Jon H. Burrows
101 E. Central Ave
Belton, TX 76513
Dear Honorable Jon H. Burrows:
I am writing this letter and asking you to consider an effective change to the current rabies vaccination ordinance for Bell County Texas.
My husband and I relocated to Temple a little over a year ago and we were very surprised to learn the rabies booster is required annually. Most places across the nation have changed their protocols to a 3-year booster and are further researching possible changes for longer term boosters, such as 5 to 7 year. There is much research and data available to indicate 3-year rabies boosters are more than sufficient in healthy animals.
As I opened the Sunday edition of the Temple Daily Telegram yesterday morning and began to read the front page article about this very topic, I was happy to see that there may be a chance of Bell County effecting change in the vaccination ordinance. However, I must say I was also quite disappointed with some aspects of this article.
First, the comment made regarding how a clinic does not depend upon income from administering annual rabies vaccinations. While this may be somewhat true, I do not feel this statement to be a complete disclosure. Many veterinary clinics certainly do rely on required vaccinations to bring clients in the door and to keep them returning for future visits. Once clients are in the door veterinarians can, and do, recommend other services and products. Without mandatory vaccination protocols, many people would not otherwise take their pets to see a veterinarian. Without these people visiting these clinics, veterinarians lose the opportunity to offer and/or provide other services, thereby losing this very large source of income. For example:
• Rabies booster: $10.00
• Bordatella: $20.00 ($10.00 every 6 months)
• DHLP-P: $27.00
• Rattlesnake: $26.00
• Office Visit: $20.00
• Total: $103.00 annually per pet
Now we know a veterinarians practice provides other services, so giving vaccinations all day would be unfair. However, a veterinarian may see as many as 36 pets per day, so we’ll round it down to 30. Taking the annual income from the vaccinations shown above, with vaccinations given only one day per month, would provide a monthly income of $3,708.00 or $44,496.00 annually. With a large multi-vet clinic, these numbers increase dramatically, because more pets are seen. With 5 veterinarians in one practice providing immunizations, using the same calculations, would generate well over $200,000 annually for vaccinations alone. Other services or care provided, such as Heartworm test ($27.50), Heartworm preventative ($35.76/box), Flea & Tick preventative ($59.17/box), Office exam ($20.00), X-Rays 1 film ($50.00), are offered to the clients. I have to surmise that vaccinations are indeed a very large source of income a veterinarian depends upon.
Remarks such as, "It’s based on lots of years of precedent and experience with things that work," "I’d rather be over-protected than under-protected," "I bet she’s never seen rabies, I have."
•First, medicine changes all the time, regardless of what type of medicine is being practiced; veterinary medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology, etc. There have been many discoveries made throughout the centuries which have set "precedence" however, they are no longer used in treatment because research has shown there is no benefit, or the risks outweigh the benefit, or risks include further damage, disease or even death. Research is constantly showing better and healthier treatments and continually replacing older or outdated methods of care. This is what Progress is all about. Something which may have worked 20 years ago may not work today because of a lot of different factors.
•One remark that really caught my attention was the belief to "over-vaccinate than under-vaccinate." I’m not sure how to digest this statement. Would one also be willing to over-vaccinate their children or grandchildren? I would much rather have my pets vaccinated and then have titers drawn to determine if the vaccine is still working; just as the medical profession does for many human vaccinations. I spent over 10 years in the military; we were required to have several vaccinations, including a vaccination for HIV. While I was administered the original live virus vaccination (not the synthetic), I have not been required to be revaccinated since the original series. I have had blood titers drawn, which indicate the vaccination still remains active even after more than 25 years. I would certainly have some concern if I were required to have a live HIV virus vaccination injected into my body on an annual basis. Revaccination or boosters are only needed if the titers indicate. Vaccinations in animals offer the same protection and are effective for several years, if not a lifetime. I personally do not wish to have myself, my family, or my pets to be over-vaccinated.
•I feel when one makes such a statement regarding cases they have seen, a full disclosure of those cases should also be made. For example, how long ago (1 yr ago vs. 20 years ago) and what were the other circumstances (was the animal vaccinated or not, where was the animal located, did the animal have other existing medical issues, what was the age of the animal, what were the living conditions, was the animal a stray, was the animal domesticated or feral, etc.). Yes, rabies is terrible, no one will argue that. However, most rabies cases in humans are the result of transmission from bats, not dogs, cats or other domesticated animals.
•"I bet she’s never seen rabies." How can one make a comment such as this without truly knowing if it is true or not. This gives the appearance of making an attempt to instill "fear and/or panic" in the readers, while also trying to discredit an opposing view. It is my understanding that all the veterinary teaching schools across the country have adopted and now recommend the 3-year booster, including the very school which some of those interviewed and the clinic’s entire veterinarian staff have trained at, Texas A&M. I phoned Texas A&M today to ask what they teach and the response: "We teach to vaccinate for rabies at 12 weeks, 1 year (12 weeks, 12 months) and 3-year booster using Merial Imrab 3." I am actually quite surprised there is a belief that rabies boosters should remain as an annual vaccination.
I simply do not share the belief that rabies boosters should be administered annually, especially since so many other veterinary schools and practitioners across the nation also agree with the 3-year rabies booster, including the American Veterinarian Medical Association and Center for Disease Control. Even the State of Texas requires the 3-year booster, not an annual vaccination. While it may be easier to seek the opinions of local professionals because they may be more readily available to answer questions, theirs’ should not be the only opinion relied upon for decisions which not only affect policy, but also the health and welfare of the members of the community and their pets. County rabies ordinance should be based on the scientific data presented by the CDC, National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians and the American Veterinary Medical Association rather than on opinions of local veterinarians whose income may be directly impacted by a change in the ordinance. I have included several articles regarding such data. Much more is available online, as well as from many well respected veterinarians and teaching facilities across our great Nation. I am not a veterinarian and I have not attended medical school, but this does not make me any less intelligent or concerned regarding this issue. I am a member of this community and I believe in progress. I am concerned about the welfare of my pets. In closing, I respectfully urge you to reconsider the current rabies vaccination policy and to institute the 3-year protocol for Bell County.
Sincerely, Patti Emmerling