The great Hendra debate

An article in theland.com.au about the Hendra vaccine brought up some interesting points regarding the issue of vaccinating against the deadly disease or choosing not to. There is a current class action against Zoetis Australia, the producer of HeV vaccine, in that they misled the public to believe that all areas of Australia were high risk for horses to contract Hendra where flying foxes were present (Ellicott, J., 2019). The claimant also alleges that the risk was low in the vicinity of identified incidents as well as outside of those particular areas.

Conflicting information has been presented by Zoetis in contrast to cases of severe reaction to the vaccine which have ended up costing thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills. The vaccine company also stated that their initial research presented, “no serious or life threatening reactions,” (Zoetis, as cited by Ellicott, J. 2019). There have been quite a few different issues that have arisen out the Hendra debate including theses reactions, delays in treating horses who are not affected by Hendra, and consequences in choosing not to vaccinate. One claimant in the class action lost her job when she didn’t continue vaccinating after her horse had an adverse reaction to the vaccine and needed over $30,000 in medical treatment.

Many organisations, studs, and equestrian centres require that visiting horses are vaccinated in order to compete or breed. But does the vaccine actually work? According to the Australian Veterinary Association (2019), no vaccinated horses have ever contracted Hendra virus, and the vaccination also provides protection for the horse and humans in contact. Despite this information, vaccinations around the Queensland racing industry of thoroughbreds are on the decline (Bate, P., 2019).

Whilst this may be the case, unwell horses are being refused adequate treatment for other issues when they are not up to date with Hendra vaccinations, even though it is not mandatory. One family lost their horse to plant poisoning whilst waiting for a Hendra confirmation to come back (Calver, O., 2019). They are now raising funds to develop rapid testing to rule out the deadly disease and be able to safely treat horses quicker.

I chose to vaccinate to protect myself and my horse but do believe that there needs to be a solution to ensure horses don’t also suffer reactions to the vaccine. With more testing and the potential for a rapid test, we can continue to protect the ones we love.

Do you vaccinate? If not, why?

©  Shae Rudd 2019

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