Although David Cameron, before taking office, predicted that political lobbying was “the next big scandal waiting to happen” and that it had “tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money”, the veterinary vaccine industry has no need for lobbyists. There is a revolving door between the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD – part of Defra) and the veterinary pharmaceutical industry, which is causing harm to pets.
Canine Health Concern members have been mobilised to write to their MPs asking for representation. They are alerting their MPs to a 366-page document written in response to the VMD’s recent Position Paper on Canine Vaccination Schedules, released during March. The VMD document uses veterinary vaccine industry vox pops and industry-sponsored research to justify the over-vaccination of companion animals in the UK. CHC members are also calling for David Cameron’s Government to sever the incestuous ties between the veterinary pharmaceutical industry and the VMD.
The cosy relationship between the VMD and the veterinary vaccine industry is causing unnecessary illness and death in dogs and cats, says Canine Health Concern (CHC). This conflict appears to have arisen with Margaret Thatcher’s government in the ‘80s. Deregulation and pro-business legislation continued under New Labour.
Steve Dean was appointed head of the VMD in 2002. He had spent 17 years as a marketing manager within the pharmaceutical industry, and later became a pharmaceutical industry consultant. Since joining the VMD, he has acted as a speaker at veterinary pharmaceutical industry events and even participated at industry launches. “Professor Dean’s appointment reflects government policy with regard to the veterinary pharmaceutical industry,” says CHC’s Catherine O’Driscoll. “Despite repeated requests to successive governments,” she adds, “the VMD continues to block efforts to reduce vaccine casualties in the pet population.
“Will David Cameron’s government do anything about this – or will pet owners continue to be surprised and angry when their dogs and cats develop cancer, leukaemia, brain damage, arthritis, allergies, or other vaccine-associated diseases from a vaccine they didn’t need in the first place?”
The VMD is allegedly there to protect public and animal health, but it is also ‘keen to minimise the burden of regulation on industry’ and to ‘help the industry bring new products to market’. It cannot both protect consumers and their pets from potentially harmful pharmaceuticals, whilst at the same time viewing the industry as its chief customer and seeking to improve the quality of service it provides to customers.
Members of the VMD and the Veterinary Products Committee (which decides whether it was a vaccine reaction or not) have declared interests (research grants, shares, consultancy) with a wide range of pharmaceutical and vaccine companies. The VMD does not have an arms length relationship with the industry it regulates. Rather, its culture is one of facilitation and support for the highly powerful pharmaceutical industry.
Veterinary bodies around the world have called for a halt to annual vaccination. Independent studies show that dogs and cats, once immune to viral disease, are likely to remain immune for their entire life. Yet the VMD issues threats to veterinarians who might wish to reflect the known science and vaccinate less frequently, and advises Ministers who subsequently repeat those threats.
Richard Allport, a holistic vet who sees many patients referred for treatment with natural medicines, is one of several vets who are supportive of CHC’s views on the VMD. He says: “Many clients say they are pressured by their veterinary practice to still have annual vaccinations, made to feel guilty if they refuse, and made to feel they are being difficult if they ask for titre testing instead.”
Another veterinarian, Michael Fox, says: “I have researched the adverse consequences in dogs and cats of repeated vaccinations that are not necessary, since a single injection confers life-long immunity to most animals. The long-term health consequences are severe for many animals and very costly for their owners.”
In its Position Paper, the VMD acknowledges that life-threatening vaccine reactions in dogs and cats are under-reported, but calls this ‘insignificant’ and brushes under-reporting off. It also admits that it has no idea of the prevalence of viral disease in Britain’s dogs. Nevertheless, it overrides independent expert opinion and says disease threat exceeds vaccine dangers. It claims to be in accord with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association which says we should vaccinate no more than every three years whilst pronouncing that we should vaccinate at least every three years. This is doublespeak.
Whilst annual vaccination against a range of diseases to which dogs and cats are already immune is the norm in the UK, the VMD asserts that pet owners should decide when to vaccinate in consultation with their veterinarians. This is disingenuous and requires that pet owners are more knowledgeable than their vets.
In reality, pet owners are unlikely to know that worldwide veterinary bodies are calling for a halt to annual vaccination; they are unlikely to know that MLV (modified live virus) vaccines protect for life in over 95% of cases; they are unlikely to know the risks associated with unnecessary vaccines; and they are unlikely to be able to argue the science with their vets – who have been educated in colleges which rely upon pharmaceutical industry sponsorship. Neither do pet owners understand that continuing veterinary education is largely delivered by multinationals, or that the law does not allow vets to stray from the revaccination intervals approved by the VMD.
“Pet owners take their dogs and cats for annual jabs,” says Catherine O’Driscoll, “little knowing that existing antibodies cancel out the vaccine challenge and that no more immunity is provided. They don’t know they are paying for something their animals do not need, and which comes with a risk of life-threatening adverse reactions. It is a scandal, and yet no-one in the UK who has the power to stop this practice will do anything about it. Meanwhile, we have spent the last 16 years trying to help grieving pet owners understand and come to terms with their friends’ deaths.
”If this Government will not halt this damaging practice, then we must assume that profits really do come before life.”
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