The benefits of vaccination


All animals, like people, deserve to benefit from the protective power of vaccination as they go through life. When there is a risk that they may contract a serious or fatal disease, vaccines, where they exist, are essential. Vaccines are an important part of the veterinarian’s toolbox. This is why AnimalhealthEurope’s members continue to invest in developing new vaccines and other ways of preventing infections or diseases.


It is always preferable to prevent disease rather than having to resort to treatment. Vaccines help ensure the welfare of both farm animals and pets, the efficiency and sustainability of farming practices, the safety and availability of food, and the health of animal owners. They play an important role in the fight against illness and have achieved great success in controlling many diseases of vital importance in farm and companion animals or those which threaten human health (e.g. rabies and salmonella).


Animal vaccination plays a role in wider public health. Successful animal vaccination programmes and the EU pet passport system mean that today the vast majority of EU member states are recorded as rabies-free. Vaccinating dogs protects the dog from getting rabies and also blocks the major route of transmission between wildlife and humans: studies have shown that by vaccinating 70% of a local dog population against rabies, we can reduce the number of human cases to almost zero.


Protecting animals from disease prevents transmission and slows further spread. By using vaccines, the veterinarian can improve natural immunity before disease strikes or, with antisera, in the very early stages of infection. In addition, with vaccines, whole flock or herd protection can be achieved, as well as protection of people.


Good husbandry, including good nutrition, efficient bio-security measures, and health management plans are all part of preventing diseases in livestock. Prevention helps to avoid animal suffering and death, transmission to other animals or people, and production losses for farm animals like a drop in milk production, etc. Regular vaccination can also help reduce bacterial disease, meaning vets can safeguard precious tools like antibiotics for use only when necessary. 


Vaccines are a safe and easy way to stimulate an animal’s natural defence system to prevent disease, safeguard their health and protect their welfare. Vaccines also protect livestock against infectious diseases that could potentially be passed to people through food, helping to ensure the safe provision of nutritious food such as eggs, milk, fish and meat products. Farmers rely on access to effective medicines to keep their animals healthy.


Vaccination has profoundly influenced and improved world health, and will continue to be a fundamental tool to meet future health challenges. It has eliminated rinderpest in animals and smallpox in people. Vaccination can control many other health scourges against which no other specific treatment exists, such as human polio, foot-and-mouth disease in cattle, canine distemper and rabies in man and animals.


Medical advances over the years have meant that one single vaccine injection can incorporate more than one disease or disease strain to provide combined protection against several strains of micro-organisms or several diseases. Use of modern technologies also make it easier to control and eradicate disease without having to slaughter healthy animals, by making it possible to differentiate vaccinated animals from infected animals. These advances have improved animal health management, making the farmer’s job a little easier too.