Vaccines play a huge role in modern day life: they keep the healthy in good health, protect those who are particularly vulnerable to attack from disease (vaccinations in children born in the last 20 years are estimated to have prevented over 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths), and have significantly reduced the chance that epidemics or pandemics will arise. One factor that people don’t consider is the impact vaccines have had on livestock.
We all know the routine: you head to your nearest doctor’s office or pharmacy, wait while the technician pulls a fresh influenza vaccine from the nearby medical grade refrigerator or pharmacy freezer, and brace yourself for the inevitable prick of the needle. The entire process usually takes less than 10 minutes and then you’re on your way, all memories of pharmaceutical freezers and vaccine refrigerators forgotten. The routine for herd animals is similar (even vaccinations for cows require pharmaceutical freezers and scientific refrigerators), but offers a different option should the manufactured inoculation prove ineffective: veterinarians can order custom vaccines.
Custom (also known as autogenous) vaccines can provide better and more specific immune responses because they contain antigens specifically targeted toward new or unusual strains of pathogens that may emerge locally. Basically, if your sounder of swine aren’t responding to the vaccine that’s worked great for Old MacDonald in the neighboring county, there’s a solution to identify the antigens causing the problem: diagnostic testing.
“Diagnostics show us what’s really going on — instead of just shooting from the hip clinically,” says Randy Shirbroun, DVM, and ruminant business unit director at Newport Laboratories. “A key component is making sure we have the right isolate.”
By sending samples to nearby laboratories for diagnostic testing, farmers and veterinarians gain two benefits:
- In the short term, it provides a scientific basis for treatments and allows for a more informed decision-making process regarding management of the disease
- In the long term, it aids future vaccine production and design by identifying the pathogens involved
The entire process becomes proactive rather than reactive; instead of responding to an outbreak after half of your herd has died, you’re able to isolate the strain at the very beginning.