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The Government’s Animal Defender
By Catherine O’Driscoll


Canine Health Concern’s calls for the withdrawal of annual vaccines have once again fallen on deaf ears…

At the beginning of 2010, Canine Health Concern and over a hundred vets and animal lovers wrote to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) to demand the withdrawal of one-year ‘core MLV’ vaccines from the market (for distemper, parvovirus and adenovirus/hepatitis).  Our demand was based upon the fact that dogs don’t need to be vaccinated every year, and over-vaccination increases the chance of severe life-threatening reactions.  After exchanging thousands of words, the VMD refuses to withdraw these redundant products.  Who benefits?  You, your pets – or the veterinary pharmaceutical industry?  

Mahatma Gandhi said:  “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."  And yet the government’s own veterinary medicines licensing body – in my view – is morally and practically failing to attend to the welfare of the animals.  You need to care about this, because the dogs you love might suffer as a result. 

According to its website and literature, The vision of the VMD is the responsible, safe and effective use of veterinary medicinal products. In working towards achieving this vision the VMD aims to protect public health, animal health, the environment and promote animal welfare by assuring the safety, quality and efficacy of veterinary medicines.”  

In my view, the VMD fails on every count. 

The background

According to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Conference proceedings for 2010, just over half of the vets in the UK have stopped vaccinating against distemper, parvovirus and adenovirus (hepatitis) annually because once a dog is immune to these diseases, they will remain immune for years, and probably for life. 

However, this still means that nearly half of vets are vaccinating every year when they don’t need to.  Apart from advising dog owners to pay for something their dogs don’t need, it also puts animals at risk of vaccine reactions which, the science shows, can include brain damage, epilepsy, allergies, skin problems, arthritis, cancer, leukaemia, other autoimmune diseases, and death. 

Around the world, veterinary bodies have stepped up to the plate.  The American Animal Hospital Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Australian Veterinary Association and even the World Small Animal Veterinary Association have called for an end to annual vaccination.  The problem is that too many vets in practice are ignoring this advice.  If half of the vets in the UK are vaccinating annually, then hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats are still being subjected to an unnecessary medical procedure which can harm them – for no good reason. 

Vets in the UK are largely self-regulating.  Bodies such as the BSAVA and the British Veterinary Association have ignored the known science since the 1970s, when published studies first showed that dogs and cats don’t need annual shots.  They have also ignored the mountain of scientific literature which shows the wide range of serious life-threatening reactions that can result from vaccination. 

So we turned to the regulator 

When we wrote to the VMD in February 2010, it seemed the most logical thing to do.  If one-year core vaccines licenses weren’t available, then vets couldn’t mislead pet owners into paying for them.  This would also solve the problem of kennels, insurance companies and dog clubs demanding proof of annual shots. 

The VMD replied to us with a ‘position paper’ which merely reflected what already happens.  It didn’t address the request to withdraw redundant vaccines from the market.  Why are one-year vaccines redundant?  Because newer vaccines exist, and these have been licensed for boosting after three or four years. 

So we replied to the VMD with a lengthy two-part document.  This is carried, along with all of the correspondence, on the VMD’s website – www.vmd.gov.uk ( https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/veterinary-medicines-directorate ) –  In part one of our response, we presented the science to the VMD to show how vaccines can destroy our dogs’ immune systems, setting them up for diseases like cancer, Addison’s, autoimmune haemolytic anaemia, and many other names which boil down to a slow, agonising and painful death.  Further scientific papers were presented to show that the more you vaccinate, the more you increase the risk. 

Backwards and forwards the correspondence went.  I’m summarising the VMD’s response here, but urge you to look at the full documentation to satisfy yourself that what I say is an accurate reflection of the VMD’s stance. 

Basically, the VMD says it will not withdraw these unnecessary vaccines because the risk of an adverse reaction doesn’t exceed the benefits.  Since the VMD’s Suspected Adverse Reaction Reporting Scheme (SARRS) doesn’t show that many dogs have adverse reactions to their shots, then the ‘legislation’ will not allow them to withdraw one-year vaccines. 

The VMD ignores the fact that by withdrawing one-year vaccines, which can be legitimately replaced in every case by 3-4 year vaccines, we are reducing the frequency of revaccination, which also reduces the risk of adverse events. 

The SARRS scheme 

If your dog has a reaction to any veterinary drug, your vet can – if he wants – report it to the VMD using the ‘Yellow Form’.  This is a voluntary scheme, and he doesn’t need to bother if he doesn’t want to.  Added to this, vets are not trained to know what most vaccine reactions look like.  So if your dog has an epileptic fit within a day or two of being vaccinated, your vet may say it has nothing to do with the vaccine, and won’t fill in the yellow form.  If your dog suddenly sprouts a mast cell tumour, or comes down with arthritis, or develops skin disease, or becomes allergic to his food, or starts attacking the children, or dies of autoimmune haemolytic anaemia within a few weeks of being vaccinated, your vet is also unlikely to connect the dots.  However, if he does fill in a yellow form, he’s likely to be contacted and hassled by the vaccine manufacturer – so that’s a disincentive. 

You are also allowed to fill in a yellow form and submit it to the VMD.  But few pet owners have heard of a yellow form, or the VMD. 

As a result of this, in both human and veterinary medicine, it is estimated that only around one percent of adverse drug reactions ever get reported.  We estimate, on the known figures, that as many as 28,000 dogs have reactions to their annual shots in the UK every year – but because the SARRS scheme is voluntary, this figure is never picked up. 

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate 

I took one of my dogs to the vet recently and I mentioned that we were campaigning for the VMD to withdraw one-year MLV vaccine licenses.  He snorted and said:  “You’ve got no chance.  The VMD is the pharmaceutical industry.”  Now this is an ordinary conventional vet.  If he thinks this, and other vets think this, then we need to be worried.  It indicates that the veterinary pharmaceutical industry is a law unto itself. 

In part two of our paper to the VMD, we looked at the ‘system’ which keeps annual vaccination in place.  This includes pet charities which take money from veterinary pharmaceutical companies; vets who rely upon booster income; pet owners who don’t question the advice they are given; veterinary teaching establishments who rely upon pharmaceutical industry funding; and government which needs big business to employ people and pay taxes.  It also includes the VMD. 

The VMD is headed by Steve Dean, a former vet who spent 17 years as a marketing manager in the pharmaceutical industry.  We have also highlighted, and he has defended, the fact that he speaks at veterinary vaccine industry seminars and helps them at press launches. Vaccine reactions are assessed by the Veterinary Products Committee.  These are scientists who might be university lecturers, and many of them declare – as they must – that they receive money in the form of consultancy and research grants from the veterinary vaccine industry. 

It turns out that the Secretary of State, who is a Minister appointed by the Prime Minister, must follow the advice of the VMD.  So if you wrote to your MP and said you didn’t think it right that the VMD keeps one-year vaccines on the market, which means that pets are being over-vaccinated and causing them harm, your MP will write to the Minister who will write to the VMD, and the VMD will write a response, which the Minister will send to your MP, and your MP will send it back to you.  We’re asking the fox to account for the missing chickens, and taking his word for it. 

So if the VMD wants to write:  “Naff off, we aint gonna stop the dogs receiving veterinary products they don’t need and which might harm them,” there’s nothing you or I or anyone can do about it.  

One CHC member lives in a constituency served by a high ranking MP who is an advisor to the Prime Minister.  He took an interest in our campaign.  I suggested to him that it would appear that we are wasting our time seeking democratic representation, and that government is incapable of influencing the decisions of the VMD.  He replied: 

“I am afraid that the Veterinary Medicines Directorate is an independent body and the Government cannot overrule it.” 

I am flabbergasted to say the least.  It’s as though Al Capone’s brother-in-law runs the FBI, and Al Capone can do what he likes.  We invited the VMD to change our perception by demonstrating its independence from the pharmaceutical industry.  They could do this, we said, by withdrawing one-year licenses, and by re-drafting its advice to pet owners which, in our opinion, is openly dishonest when it claims that vaccine reactions are only mild.  They have not acted on either of these suggestions. 

Since my own dogs died of vaccine-induced disease, I have been watching and observing.  I watched when, two weeks after we sent out a press release about a cancer-causing flea control chemical called Carbaryl, it was withdrawn from sale in children’s head lice shampoo.  In contrast, the VMD had a meeting with flea control product manufacturers and gave them 18 months to use their stocks up on dogs.  Carbaryl, incidentally, is more carcinogenic to dogs than to any other species. 

I observed that when CHC attended a meeting at the VMD to discuss the traceability of veterinary medicines, we were the only animal welfare organisation in attendance.  I also observed that pharmaceutical industry representatives blocked our inexpensive software solution which would enable us all to easily trace adverse reactions to veterinary drugs and vaccines, and the VMD let them block positive change.  

When CHC conducted research into adverse reactions occurring post-vaccination in dogs, the VMD asked to scrutinise our research.  We said yes, willingly – but we stipulated that an individual without pharmaceutical industry ties should do the scrutinising.  The VMD put up a professor with pharmaceutical industry ties.  We asked them to appoint an independent.  They said no. 

The VMD then launched a working party to look into canine and feline vaccines in the UK.  Guess what.  This so-called independent working group comprised individuals who took consultancy money and grants from the pharmaceutical industry.  And guess what they recommended.  They said we should carry on vaccinating our dogs and cats every year.  This is despite the fact that, since the 1970s, it has been known that dogs and cats remain immune to core viral disease for years or life. 

The VMD, incidentally, relies upon the pharmaceutical industry for the large part of its income. 

According to a 2005 Animal Pharm report, the veterinary vaccines sector accounted for 20% of global animal health product revenues in 2004, and vaccines were predicted to grow in excess of $4 billion by 2009.  Sales have been rising by 7% per year since 2000.  So alongside the scientific understanding that we don’t need to vaccinate our dogs every year, vaccine sales are growing.  And the heads of these pharmaceutical companies typically earn around 14 million each a year.

Should we not expect the government legislator to represent the interests of the pet owning public so that pet owners cannot be misled into paying for vaccines which their animals do not need, and which have the potential to cause harm?  Nobody benefits from keeping one-year core vaccines on the market, except the pharmaceutical industry and ill-educated vets.  Animals who are vaccinated annually are not likely to be any more immune than animals who are vaccinated against core diseases only as puppies or kittens. 

This is scientific fraud on a massive scale, supported and endorsed, it seems, by government - government which has, under successive leaderships, given the VMD carte blanche to do as it pleases.  The British government set the VMD up, and successive governments have appointed the staff.  And although “the VMD is an independent body and the government cannot overrule it,” it is still part of government – an unelected and ungoverned part of government. 

Can we trust the medicines that are licensed for your pets?   Did you vote for this? 




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