Michael J. Day, BSc, BVMS(Hons), PhD, DSc, DECVP, FASM, FRCPath, FRCVS
The WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group (VGG) was formed in 2006 in response to global concerns over companion animal vaccine safety and demand for advice on modification of companion animal vaccination protocols that would allow delivery of protective immunity with a greater safety margin. The WSAVA Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs and Cats were first published in 2007 and were the first such guidelines to cover both small companion animal species from a global (rather than national or regional) perspective.
In 2008, the VGG reconvened in order to update the 2007 guidelines and this target was achieved with publication of the 2010 vaccination guidelines, which remain current. It was clear from a questionnaire survey that the 2007 guidelines had made a major impact. Those guidelines had been endorsed or adopted by many national small animal veterinary associations or had been used as a basis for the preparation of national guidelines, where none had existed previously. In parallel with guidelines for veterinarians, the VGG also produced an extensive information document for the owners and breeders of dogs and cats. Both documents and further information about the VGG are available from the VGG webpages on the WSAVA website.
In 2012, the VGG will begin a third phase of activity with a project that now focuses on the companion animal infectious disease prevalence and vaccination requirements of the Asian continent. These notes are being written just weeks in advance of the start of this project. The implementation of this focused project was driven by the particular problems of infectious disease in the Asian countries, together with consideration of cultural and socioeconomic aspects, the phenomenon of stray or community-owned companion animals and the background of veterinary education in the region.
For the Phase III Project, the composition of the VGG has been extended to bring in regional expertise and knowledge. The current VGG members are:
Professor Michael J. Day (Chairman), University of Bristol, UK
Professor Ron Schultz, University of Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Professor Hajime Tsujimoto, University of Tokyo, Japan
Professor Richard Squires, James Cook University, Australia
These core members of the VGG will be joined by local colleagues for some meetings.
The Phase III project involves a series of face-to-face meetings of the VGG. The first of these will be held in Japan in July 2012 and the second in India in September 2012. The final meeting is scheduled to take place in China during 2013. Each of these meetings is designed to be a fact-finding exercise, during which the VGG will meet with representatives of local small animal veterinary associations, industry, government regulators and academia over the course of a 3–4 day meeting. During these meetings we will discuss infectious disease prevalence, current vaccine availability and vaccination schedules, adverse reactions and the public perception of companion animal vaccination. During the meeting in Japan, we will also meet with Dr Tomoko Ishibashi, the Deputy Director of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in the Asia Pacific Region. This discussion will focus particularly on canine rabies control programmes in the Asia Pacific region.
In advance of each meeting, the VGG will circulate a detailed questionnaire on canine and feline infectious disease and vaccination to veterinarians in each country. This should provide valuable background information and data. At the time of writing we have analysed the questionnaire from Japan, for which there were over 100 responses. It is our intention to also use this questionnaire in additional Asian countries in order to gather feedback from a spectrum of nations, which time and finances preclude us from visiting individually.
The overall aim of this information gathering is for the VGG to produce a summary document of its findings and recommendations for best vaccination practice in the Asian situation. We anticipate that this document may be published in early 2014.
One particular concern of the VGG has been the requirement for education on companion animal vaccinology for practising veterinarians in these countries. We are aware that the curricula for a number of Asian veterinary schools include relatively little teaching on small companion animal disease or on the principles of immunology and vaccinology. As a tangible part of the current VGG project, for each of the three meetings, members of the VGG will present two separate continuing education events (in two different venues) for practising veterinarians. These CE programmes will cover the need for vaccination guidelines and specific recommendations for the vaccination of dogs and cats. We anticipate around 100 delegates attending each of the two meetings in each country.
The work of the VGG would not be possible without the kind sponsorship of MSD Animal Health. We are grateful for the logistical support of the local MSD Animal Health offices in Japan, India and China in helping to make the practical arrangements for each visit and CE event. The VGG is an entirely independent academic group. Our sponsor does not attend VGG meetings or have input into VGG documents.