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Vets Criticise Hendra Vaccine 'Hate Campaign'

03 February 2015
Australian Veterinary Association

AUSTRALIA - Equine veterinarians are very concerned that recent commentary about the safety of the Hendra vaccine is not based on fact and may be misleading horse owners in high-risk areas.

“Horse owners are understandably concerned about reports of reactions to the vaccine, and vets understand this as they work with vaccines all the time,” said Dr Nathan Anthony, President of Equine Veterinarians Australia, a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association.

“But we’re very worried about comments in social media critical of the Hendra vaccine’s safety. Horse owners in areas with a high risk of Hendra may be receiving inaccurate information and basing their decisions about whether to vaccinate on misleading data and this could be dangerous.

“The truth is that the Hendra vaccine does save lives. Some horses are experiencing temporary swelling and a stiff neck after a Hendra vaccination but the significance of this is no different to our sore arm after a tetanus vaccination and we should keep this in perspective.

“This is not a serious reaction. It’s relatively common and can be expected from any vaccination, and is a reasonable trade off to protect against very dangerous diseases.

Dr Brian Sheehan, an equine veterinarian with more than 30 years of experience says horse owners can be confident that the vaccine is safe.

“Our practice has administered more than 4,200 doses of the Hendra vaccine without any serious side effects.

“For every 500 doses that we administer we are seeing only one or two horses that develop swelling and a stiff neck however this is temporary and it completely resolves within days,” said Dr Sheehan.

“There have been 320,000 doses of the Hendra vaccine administered in the last two years. All reported adverse reactions have been investigated and reports made to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority which independently assesses the investigations,” Dr Anthony said.

“If your horse has an adverse reaction to any vaccine, your vet should report this to the Authority. You can also make a report.

“If you live in or travel to areas where Hendra virus is a risk, you should seriously consider vaccinating your horses.

“But don’t rely on hearsay to make your decision – talk to your vet, and read the information about adverse reactions from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.”

Independent information about the safety and registration of the Hendra vaccine is available on the website of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority.

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