It looks as if the rumour mill and conspiracy theories on social media which bombarded people during and after Covid-19 concerning vaccinations against the disease has affected people’s views of pet vaccinations. The experts say that the Covid-19 “infodemic” has undermined trust in vaccinations. This came about because there were hundreds of millions of vaccinations against Covid-19 and on social media there were a lot of people telling the world that they were unsafe. It was a marketing blitz if you like from the sceptics and the conspiracy theorists and it stuck in some cases which has reduced people’s belief in vaccination and this has impacted pet vaccinations.
A new study finds that most Americans — 53% — are skeptical of canine vaccinations, including those that prevent rabies. Because of high U.S. rabies vaccination rates, only one or two dogs test positive yearly, and dog-to-human transmission is non-existent. With U.S. vaccine skepticism on the rise, that could change. And that would be a travesty for both dogs and people.Nathan Winograd
It’s the constant social media misinformation which ultimately gets into the brain of people who are unsure about vaccines and which changes their minds. Although of course people who are sceptical about vaccinations will say that it is not misinformation but the truth. There is a reaction against Big Brother (the authorities) dictating to individuals about what they should and shouldn’t do.
The scepticism about vaccinations extends to children. There’s been a fall in immunisation rates causing a recent resurgence of vaccine preventable diseases in America.
A classic belief among a substantial number of people is that vaccines cause autism in children, which goes back to the Andrew Wakefield story and a study published in 1997 in The Lancet. The study is now discredited but the findings stuck with a lot of mothers.
Autism in dogs
And remarkably, many people think that dog vaccines cause dog autism. Some experts say that dogs cannot be autistic but a quick search on the Internet tells me that researchers have found that autism spectrum disorder can affect dogs but it’s called canine dysfunctional behaviour. Researchers believe that canine dysfunctional behaviour is an idiopathic condition meaning that the cause is unknown. It appears to be congenital. There is no evidence that vaccines cause it. Can we believe medical experts? I have a degree of skepticism myself.
The study below found a persistent belief based upon vaccine myths that nearly 40% of respondents were concerned that vaccines could cause dogs to develop autism or, in reference to the above, the canine version of it.
Study published 26th August 2023
You can see the problem. People have become sceptical and the numbers are quite large. USA Today News refers to a study, recently published, on this topic entitled: “Sick as a dog? The prevalence, politicisation, and health policy consequences of canine vaccine hesitancy (CVH)”. Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2023.08.059.
The study asked YouGov to conduct an online survey of 2200 US adults between March 30 and April 10, 2023 on the matter of vaccinating dogs. The result was that a “large minority of dog owners consider vaccines administered to dogs to be unsafe (37%), ineffective (22%), and/or unnecessary (30%). A slight minority of dog owners (53%) endorse at least one of these three options.“
The study is published in the journal Vaccine. The remarkable statistic that over half of those surveyed were sceptical about vaccines is concerning. Note: the study concerned dogs but I suspect that the same kind of results would be found in respect of cats but we don’t know. It would be nice if there were more studies concerning cats but dogs are nearly always chosen over cats because they are easier to deal with!
The brother sister duo lead scientists of the study, Matt and Gabriella Motta, were surprised by the results. They said: “We were pretty surprised because we knew that this phenomenon would exist, anecdotally we had good reason to believe that it was [there], but we were pretty stunned. The sheer volume of people who hold these opinions was quite striking.”
And they put the high number of sceptics down to the Covid-19 vaccine which they believe “fundamentally changed the way that Americans view vaccination in general. I think alarmingly that could be spilling over to shape how people feel towards vaccinating their pets and frankly, who knows what else? You know it could go even further.”
Efficacy of vaccines make people forget
Comment: I believe that one problem is that because vaccines are very effective people don’t see the diseases against which they protect and they tend to forget that this is because of the vaccines. They start to believe that the diseases don’t exist and that their dog can do without the vaccine.
Gabriella Motta believes that dog owners have a lack of experience with the illnesses against which vaccines protect.
A very serious illnesses; rabies is still present in America. But Gabriella Motta said that, “People kind of forget, you know, how bad [rabies] actually can be, so there’s a lot of the question of, well, why does my pet need to be vaccinated. I don’t know anyone who’s dog has ever had rabies.”
And there is “anecdotal bias”. Dog owners hear stories from other dog owners I guess which leads them to believe that vaccination is unnecessary because a dog that was not vaccinated lived a happy, healthy life without ever getting ill.
But if people stop vaccinating, the illnesses against which they protect gradually creep back. And I refer to the above. Vaccines have been effective which has resulted in people forgetting or losing their fear of these illnesses. I guess they start to believe that the illnesses aren’t there anymore.
Although rabies is largely contained in America, in some countries rabies is a massive problem. Dogs are the main carriers and transmitters of the disease. Hundreds of thousands of people die of rabies transmitted from dogs globally, annually.
In America only 60-70 (2022) dogs are reported to have contracted rabies annually according to CDC thanks to wide-spread laws mandating that dog owners vaccinate their canines against rabies.
The study found that those people who were more sceptical about vaccination of people were also more likely to have the same scepticism about vaccinating their dogs.
Decrease in child vaccinations
Organisations such as CDC and American Medical Association have reported a sharp decrease which is persistent in childhood vaccinations since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.
One issue is that the mass vaccination of people against Covid was highly politicised. Politicians were telling people to get vaccinated. The medical aspect of vaccination was being merged with politics and people are naturally sceptical of politicians. I think this added to the uncertainty people feel about vaccinations. It is the reaction against being told what to do by the authorities.
Matt Motta said that the way to restore faith in vaccinations is to provide people with “sound information about vaccination” and to restore “Americans’ faith in medical science and vaccine efficacy”.
He believes that if people can begin to trust human vaccines more through education and sound information dissemination then their trust in canine vaccines will be restored.
Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.