A lot of questions have been raised recently on social media about the best vaccines and strategies for vaccinations in alpacas. This is a difficult topic because very little research has been done on the topic in camelids (with the exception of rabies, West Nile Virus and bluetongue vaccines) and no vaccines are actually licensed for use in camelids.
Therefore, this article is written with the understanding that it is not possible to know or advise with absolute certainty what will work best in camelids. However, it is possible to discuss the relative benefits and disadvantages of the various options based on what we do know about immunology and camelids) so that owners can make informed choices.
In licensing a vaccine, not only have appropriate antibody titres in response to vaccination been measured in the species for which the vaccine is licensed, but animals will also have been “challenged” with infection (either naturally acquired and/or via experimental infection) to assess the efficacy of the vaccine. This shows whether the vaccine actually offers protection against the disease that the vaccine supposedly confers immunity to. The vaccine will also have been tested for safety. When we use unlicensed vaccines in camelids, we are only able to extrapolate information about the use of the vaccine in other species.
It is unlikely that the vaccines will ever be properly tested (and licensed) for use in camelids. Why? To put it into perspective, there are approximately 1.4 billion (yes, billion) cattle and 1 billion sheep globally and only about 4 million alpacas. While the estimated global population of goats is about half a billion, considerably more than alpacas, there are still very few medicines including vaccines labelled for use in that species, although it is likely that most goats are found in developing countries where pharmaceutical companies are less likely to make their money!
This article can be found on Page 26 of our Summer 2017 edition, on sale now! Click here for subscription and purchasing information.