Texas A&M University School of Public Health research on pet vaccination attitudes and how they may relate to human vaccine hesitancy was the subject of a new study recently published in the journal Vaccine.
Simon Haeder, Ph.D., associate professor, analyzed data from an August 2023 survey of more than 2,000 dog and more than 1,400 cat owners to measure pet vaccination rates, vaccine perceptions, and support for requirements vaccination of pets.
“Decreasing pet vaccination rates pose challenges to society for a number of reasons, including increased incidences of disease and death in pets, increased human exposure, the potential for further genetic adaptations of pathogens, as well as detrimental effects on veterinarians” , Hader said. . “Many people consider their pets to be part of the family, and the increase in vaccine-preventable diseases can also affect the financial and emotional health of owners.”
The survey first asked respondents whether they owned a dog, a cat, or both. Dog and cat owners were then asked about their pets’ vaccination status for five dog and cat diseases. These included rabies for dogs and cats, canine parvovirus and canine distemper for dogs, and feline panleukopenia and feline Bordetella for cats. Respondents then responded with levels of support for vaccination requirements for each of the listed diseases. The survey also asked respondents about the safety, effectiveness and importance of various vaccines.
In addition to questions specific to pet vaccines, the survey asked respondents about their level of trust in scientists, support for childhood vaccination mandates, political ideology, religiosity, non-veterinary expenses and frequency of dog exposure to other dogs outside the household. . Finally, the survey measured perceptions of the safety, efficacy, and importance of human vaccines.
The survey found that the vast majority of pet owners had vaccinated their dogs and cats against rabies, although cats were vaccinated less often than dogs. Other core vaccines had slightly lower but still high uptake, while there appeared to be greater hesitancy towards non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are generally recommended for all pets, regardless of lifestyle.
Further analysis found that perceptions of vaccine importance, efficacy, and safety served as a reasonable predictor of vaccine hesitancy. Furthermore, these perceptions show a correlation with attitudes towards vaccination requirements. Haeder’s analysis also found that pet owners without non-veterinary expenses, such as boarding or training fees, showed higher levels of vaccination hesitancy. Finally, attitudes and perceptions about pet vaccination appear to be less related to political ideology than to human vaccines.
The findings of this study show a high level of confidence in the safety, efficacy and importance of the vaccine for humans and pets. In addition, the analysis found relationships between human and animal vaccine hesitancy, with support for animal vaccine requirements strongly associated with similar requirements for humans. This suggests the potential for secondary effects and the importance of further focusing on human and animal vaccine hesitancy in research and public health efforts in the future.
“Concerns about growing reluctance remain and should be taken seriously, both for pets and people, before the United States falls below significant thresholds to prevent major vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks,” Hader said.