Australian equine veterinarians have expressed concerned that recent commentary about the safety of the hendra virus vaccine could be misleading horse owners in high-risk areas.

“Horse owners are understandably concerned about reports of (adverse) reactions to the vaccine, and vets understand this as they work with vaccines all the time,” said Nathan Anthony, BVSc (Hons) MANZCVSc, president of Equine Veterinarians Australia (a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association). “But we’re very worried about comments in social media critical of the hendra vaccine’s safety. Horse owners in areas with a high risk of hendra may be receiving inaccurate information and basing their decisions about whether to vaccinate on misleading data and this could be dangerous.

“The truth is that the hendra vaccine does save lives," Anthony said. "Some horses are experiencing temporary swelling and a stiff neck after a hendra vaccination but the significance of this is no different to our sore arm after a tetanus vaccination and we should keep this in perspective.

“This is not a serious reaction. It’s relatively common and can be expected from any vaccination, and is a reasonable trade off to protect against very dangerous diseases."

Brian Sheahan, BVSc, MACVSc, an equine veterinarian with more than 30 years of experience, says horse owners can be confident that the vaccine is safe: “Our practice has administered more than 4,200 doses of the hendra vaccine without any serious side effects. For every 500 doses that we administer we are seeing only one or two horses that develop