Do’s and Don’ts of Vaccination to Achieve Immunization

A comprehensive vaccine program is a critical step in livestock disease prevention. But it’s important to understand that “vaccinating” is not the same as “immunizing.” Vaccination is the act of administering a vaccine; immunization is the animal’s response to vaccinating.

Successful immunization requires two factors. First, the vaccine must be correctly cared for and administered. Second, the animal must be in a physiological state that allows for vaccination response.

Follow these do’s and don’ts to achieve effective immunization:

Do store vaccines at 35 to 45 degrees F.
For modified live virus (MLV) vaccines, it’s important to store and handle both the vaccine cake and sterile diluent according to label directions. Mixing the cake with warm diluent can greatly shorten or eliminate the effectiveness of the vaccine.

For best results, store vaccines in a well-functioning refrigerator. Locate the refrigerator in a controlled environment that is not exposed to temperature extremes. A refrigerator thermometer is a wise investment to monitor temperatures.

Much attention is placed on keeping vaccines cool during hot weather. That is important, but remember that freezing conditions can be harmful, too. Freezing a killed vaccine product can damage the vaccine and release endotoxins from bacterins. MLV vaccines can be deactivated if frozen after being reconstituted.

Don’t reconstitute too many doses at once.
MLV vaccines should be used within two hours of mixing. If you have 200 calves to vaccinate, don’t mix all 200 doses and then start vaccinating. It’s important to mix as you go and allow for unexpected delays. Discard any unused reconstituted vaccine at the end of the day.

Do mix the vaccine carefully.
When reconstituting an MLV vaccine, use a swirling or rolling motion versus shaking, which can damage the MLV within the vaccine.

Don’t expose loaded syringes to sunlight.
Once mixed, an MLV vaccine should be kept cool and out of direct sunlight. Setting a syringe down on a table or tailgate can cause the vaccine to warm up and lose effectiveness. Coolers can be purchased or constructed with openings to insert syringes between vaccinations.

Do protect vaccines from contamination.
Always use a clean needle when filling a syringe from the bottle. Don’t reload a syringe from a bottle using a needle previously used to administer a vaccine to an animal. The needle may contain debris or bacteria that may contaminate the bottle. Sanitize syringes after use. Use soaps and disinfectants for syringes used for killed vaccines, but hot water only for MLV vaccine syringes.

Don’t overlook employee training.
Make continuing education for all employees a priority. Whether using an on-site or custom crew for processing, be sure to fully explain and reinforce protocols for proper vaccine handling and administration.

Do prepare cattle for immunization.
All vaccine labels use language similar to this: “Effective for the vaccination of healthy cattle for disease caused by…” For effective immunization, the animal must be healthy and physically able to respond to vaccination. Unfortunately, incoming calves are often under stress due to trucking, commingling and sorting, potentially reducing vaccine response.

Make unloading as stress-free as possible. Using calm, quiet handling methods and putting calves into a properly prepared pen helps them overcome the stress of hauling and a new environment. Equip the receiving pen with basic needs – bedding, clean water, hay and feed. Calves should be on feed and drinking for optimal vaccine response.

Don’t overload the tub.
When administering vaccines, limit holding time to help prevent animal stress. Bring in only the number of calves needed to keep the chute crew working efficiently, leaving the others in their home pens for as long as possible.

Do consult your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian can provide additional information and advice on proper vaccination products, protocols and timing.

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