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‘Most vaccinations should not be carried out’

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By Josh Loeb

Most vaccination of animals should cease during the current three-week lockdown period, the president of the BVA has said.

However, Daniella Dos Santos (pictured right) also said current emergency guidance for vets about vaccination is likely to be altered if lockdown restrictions are extended. She also said vets should exercise professional discretion and use their judgement around when vaccinations should be carried out.

Dos Santos’ statement, made during the second of her now weekly webinars on Covid-19, followed reports of practices taking differing stances on whether, and when, to vaccinate animals during the ongoing UK-wide lockdown.

Vets are meant to have ceased all ‘routine’ work and are only supposed to be undertaking work that is regarded as essential at the current time (VR, 28 March 2020, vol 186, pp 366–367).

We know that the profession has been frustrated

‘The BVA has been inundated with calls and emails from members of the profession and the public on every conceivable issue, and one that has really stood out is pet vaccination,’ Dos Santos said. ‘We know that the profession has been frustrated because of the different decisions practices have made [regarding vaccination] and this has meant confusion among the public who are sharing information with one another online.

‘During this three-week period, the vast majority of vaccinations do not need to be done. However, we recognise that there may be a small number of exceptions to this where your clinical judgement and knowledge of your area and your clients may become important.’

Some practices have said they are still carrying out puppy vaccinations to prevent cases of infectious diseases, such as parvovirus, overwhelming their emergency service.

The BVA has been asked numerous questions about whether owners’ pet insurance cover will continue to be valid should adult vaccinations lapse during the period of lockdown restrictions, Dos Santos also revealed.

She said she had been in touch with the Association of British Insurers about this and would update the profession as soon as she had received an answer.

During her webinar – which also included a presentation by Vetlife Helpline manager Rosie Allister about keeping mentally well during the pandemic – the BVA president addressed the apparent case of human-to-cat transmission that was reported in Belgium late last week.

The cat had been in a house with an owner who was a confirmed Covid-19 case, Dos Santos said. However, there was as yet insufficient detail about the case.

‘The cat began to show respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms and was hospitalised and tested and it was found to be PCR positive,’ Dos Santos said. ‘That is about where we are now. No serology has been conducted at the moment as far as I’m aware and no virus isolation has been conducted at the moment.

‘Human-to-human transmission still absolutely remains the way this virus is spreading…Human-to-animal transmission is still exceptionally rare. We have to remember that, across the world, this is the third case…At this moment in time, this case would not change the advice we are issuing – that owners with symptoms should exercise caution and minimise contact with their pets if at all possible and should be washing their hands regularly. For vets in practice it does not change our advice with regards to biosecurity when it comes to handling cats from either suspected or confirmed Covid-19 households.

‘I would urge the profession at this stage not to run away with the story until we have the full science behind it, simply because there is a risk of consequences like animal abandonment if we get the message wrong to the animal-owning public.’

Owners should be reassured that the risk of transmission from pets is ‘infinitesimally small’, she added.

During the hour-long webinar, she also said the BVA had been lobbying extensively on behalf of vets. She said a template letter for people to send to their MP to request more financial help for vet practices was being prepared. This, she suggested, would be more effective than petitioning the government. [The template letter is now available at]

Furthermore, she urged members of the profession to contact the association with examples of good practice during the pandemic.

‘I would urge all practices – large or small, independent or not – to work together,’ she said. ‘I have heard some amazing stories of groups of vets – in Hampshire and in Wales for example – doing just that, and I’m sure there are many others out there. It would be great to showcase situations like that, so if you have a story to share, please do let us know.’

• For more about the BVA’s plans to celebrate the best of the vet profession in these difficult times, see p 425. ●

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