5.4.8. Which dogs should be vaccinated?

In practice, mass vaccination campaigns usually attempt to vaccinate every dog, so that even when dogs die and others are born between campaigns, the vaccination coverage remains as high as possible.

Vaccine manufacturers recommend that pups should be vaccinated only after 3 months of age, particularly if a nursing pup’s mother is known to be recently vaccinated against rabies. However, it is important that dogs of all ages, including young pups, are vaccinated during a mass vaccination campaign. If pups are not included in campaigns, it is likely that the overall population vaccination coverage will not be high enough to prevent rabies transmission in the interval between campaigns.

There is good evidence from African campaigns that pups younger than 3 months mount a solid (protective) immune response to the modern cell culture rabies vaccines and that these commercially-available, inactivated vaccines are entirely safe in healthy pups (see Morters reference here). Although circulating maternal antibodies in puppies may reduce the effectiveness of rabies vaccination, the studies have shown that modern cell culture vaccines is are still safe to use in puppies from two weeks old. A high vaccine efficacy may still be demonstrated in such young puppies (see here).

Vaccination should also be given to pregnant and lactating dogs if possible. Vaccination is safe, and even if immunity is not optimal, there will be some level of protection form rabies which otherwise the dog may not have.

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Photo courtesy of the Serengeti Carnivore Disease Project

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