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Humans against vaccinations are also unlikely to vaccinate their pets

A recent study by Texas A&M University School of Public Health sheds light on the attitudes toward pet vaccination and its potential connection with human vaccine hesitancy. Led by Simon Haeder, Ph.D., an associate professor at the university, the research provides crucial insights into this topical issue.

Importance of vaccinating pets

The study is based on data from a comprehensive survey conducted in August 2023, encompassing over 2,000 dog owners and more than 1,400 cat owners.

The survey aimed to gauge pet vaccination rates, owners’ perceptions of vaccines, and their support for mandatory pet vaccinations.

Highlighting the importance of the study, Haeder emphasized, “Decreasing pet vaccination rates pose challenges to society for a number of reasons, including increased incidents of pet disease and death, increases in exposures for humans, the potential for further genetic adaptations of pathogens, as well as detrimental effects on veterinarians,” Haeder said.

He also noted the financial and emotional impact on pet owners, considering the close bond many share with their pets.

What the research team learned

The survey inquired about the vaccination status of pets against specific diseases, including rabies for both dogs and cats, canine parvovirus and canine distemper for dogs, and feline panleukopenia and feline Bordetella for cats.

Additionally, it explored owners’ support for vaccination requirements, perceptions about the safety, efficacy, and importance of these vaccines, and their trust in scientists.

It also examined attitudes toward human vaccination mandates for children, political ideology, religiosity, non-veterinary expenses, and exposure of dogs to other dogs.

The findings revealed a high rate of rabies vaccination among pets, although cats were vaccinated less frequently than dogs. While core vaccines (recommended for all pets) had a high uptake, there was noticeable hesitancy toward non-core vaccines.

Interestingly, the study found that perceptions of the importance, efficacy, and safety of vaccines significantly predicted vaccine hesitancy. Furthermore, these perceptions were closely associated with attitudes toward vaccination requirements.

Another key observation was that pet owners who did not incur non-veterinary expenses exhibited more vaccine hesitancy. Moreover, pet vaccination behaviors and perceptions seemed less influenced by political ideology compared to human vaccines.

Concern about hesitancy to vaccinate pets

The study concludes that there is a high level of confidence in vaccine safety, efficacy, and importance for both humans and pets.

Notably, it also found a correlation between vaccine hesitancy in humans and animals, with strong associations between support for animal vaccine requirements and similar mandates for humans.

This indicates the potential for spillover effects and underscores the importance of focusing on vaccine hesitancy in both humans and animals in future research and public health efforts.

“Concerns about growing hesitancy remain and should be taken seriously, for both pets and humans, before the United States falls below important thresholds to prevent major outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Haeder said.

In summary, this study offers valuable insights into pet vaccination attitudes, linking them to broader public health issues, and paving the way for more informed strategies to address vaccine hesitancy.

The full study was published in the journal Vaccine.


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