The Texas A&M University School of Public Health’s research on attitudes toward the vaccination of pets and how it may be related to vaccine skepticism in humans was the subject of a recent study published in the journal Vaccine.
Simon Haeder, Ph.D., associate professor, analyzed data from a survey conducted in August 2023 among over 2,000 dog owners and more than 1,400 cat owners to measure pet vaccination rates, vaccine perceptions, and support for pet vaccination requirements.
„Declining pet vaccination rates pose a challenge to society for several reasons, including increased incidence of diseases and deaths in pets, heightened exposures to humans, the possibility of further genetic adaptations of pathogens, as well as adverse effects on veterinarians. Many people consider their pets as part of the family, and the increase in vaccine-preventable diseases can also impact the financial and emotional well-being of the owners.“
Simon Haeder, Ph.D., associate professor, Texas A&M University
The survey asked respondents about their ownership of dogs, cats, or both and inquired about the vaccination status of their pets for five diseases in both dogs and cats. It also assessed their support for vaccination requirements and their perceptions of the safety, efficacy, and importance of various vaccines.
In addition to questions about pet vaccines, respondents were queried about their trust in scientists, support for child vaccination requirements, political ideology, religiosity, non-veterinary expenses, and the frequency of contact between dogs and other dogs outside the household. The survey also gauged perceptions of the safety, efficacy, and importance of human vaccines.
The survey found that an overwhelming majority of pet owners had vaccinated their dogs and cats against rabies, although cats were less frequently vaccinated than dogs. Other core vaccines had slightly lower but still high acceptance, while there appeared to be greater reluctance toward non-core vaccines. Core vaccinations are generally recommended for all pets regardless of lifestyle.
Further analyses revealed that the perception of the importance, efficacy, and safety of vaccines served as a meaningful predictor of vaccine skepticism. These perceptions also showed a correlation with attitudes toward vaccine requirements. Haeder’s analysis also indicated that pet owners with no non-veterinary expenses showed higher vaccine skepticism. Finally, the study found that pet vaccination behavior and perceptions were less associated with political ideology and more linked to human vaccinations.
The results of this study demonstrate a high level of confidence in the safety, efficacy, and importance of vaccines for humans and animals. Moreover, the analysis highlighted linkages between vaccine skepticism in humans and animals, with support for pet vaccination requirements strongly connected to similar mandates for humans. This points to potential spillover effects and underscores the importance of focusing more on vaccine skepticism in humans and animals in future research and public health efforts.
„Concerns about growing reluctance remain and should be taken seriously for both pets and humans before the United States falls below critical thresholds to prevent major outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases,“ Haeder stated.
Haeder, SF (2023). Bewertung der Impfskepsis und Unterstützung für Impfvorschriften für Haustiere und potenzielle Übertragungen vom Menschen. Impfstoff. doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2023.10.061.