Shortage of rabies vaccine may put pets at risk

A preferred rabies shot for cats currently on back order may be leaving many pets and their owners more susceptible to the disease, May 22, 2014. (KOIN 6)
A preferred rabies shot for cats currently on back order may be leaving many pets and their owners more susceptible to the disease, May 22, 2014. (KOIN 6)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A preferred rabies shot for cats currently is on back order, potentially leaving many pets and their owners more susceptible to the disease.

Although rabies is not common, the Oregon Health Authority reported 10 cases of the disease in 2013.

“It is worldwide – a real big killer. It’s a dangerous, dangerous virus and we do have it. We have cases reported in Oregon every year of rabies,” said Dr. Scott Shuler, a veterinarian at the Northwest Neighborhood Veterinary Hospital.

According to Shuler, PUREVAX Feline Rabies vaccines, the only non-adjuvanted shot that does not contain metals, which may cause cancer, was pulled from the shelves six weeks ago because of irregularities.

Merial, the manufacturer based in Deluth, Georgie, is out of the vaccine on a national and international level due to the irregularities and must wait until its new batch is cultured before putting the vaccine back on shelves, Shuler said.

Meanwhile, pet owners in Oregon are required by law to get their pets vaccinated. However, many choose to only use this metal-free shot because of the potential risks of cancer from others.

“In Multnomah County, licenses and rabies vaccines are tied together, and for the time being, in Multnomah County, knowing there’s a shortage of rabies vaccine, they’re kind of looking the other way. They’re not going to send out any fines,” said Shuler.

In a letter sent to local veterinarians, US Pet Vaccines and Therapeutics Director Vangie Williams stated the new supply of PUREVAX Feline Rabies vaccines is expected to be available by mid-June.

In the meantime, the health risks for some pets and humans may be greater than usual.

“I think people should be concerned about rabies. But vaccinating your pet is not only a legal requirement, but it’s also the right thing to do,” said Shuler.

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