Q. Why are vaccines important for the health of our horses?

Jenny, via e-mail

A. Basically, vaccination is the administration of some antigenic material (a substance capable of inducing a specific immune response in the body by binding to a specific antibody; it can be a property of bacteria, viruses, other foreign proteins, or even host tissue cells) that is designed to stimulate the individual immune system to fight disease. So, in a sense, a vaccine is “priming” the immune system against a specific disease.

Vaccines can prevent, ameliorate, or lessen illness from a potential infection or infectious diseases, but the tricky part is vaccine selection and administration protocols; things of that nature can be complicated.

In a sense, vaccination is not “one size fits all.” These decisions are based on risk of exposure to the diseases, the consequence of a specific disease, the effectiveness of the product, and potential adverse effects. You really have to weigh the cost of the vaccination against the potential cost of the disease.

Something else to remember is that a vaccination program is really designed to protect a population, as well as the individual animal. Also, vaccination is not a remedy for poor management. So, proper management, parasite control, and biosecurity measures are also necessary (in addition to vaccination).

Discuss which vaccines are right for your horse with your veterinarian. For more information, see the American Associa