The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is debunking some misconceptions around the safety of the hendra virus vaccine and reassuring horse owners that it’s the most effective and safest way of reducing the risk of infection.

“With more than 200,000 doses of the vaccine administered to horses across Australia, the vaccine’s safety and efficacy has been well-established,” said Nathan Anthony, BVSc (Hons) MANZCVSc, president of AVA’s equine group, Equine Veterinarians Australia. “Some owners express concerns about vaccines, but they’re important weapons against emerging viruses like hendra.

“It’s important to understand vaccine reactions,” said Anthony. “If we receive a vaccine as humans we expect to have a sore arm for a couple of days after vaccination, but this is temporary and preferable to contracting a potentially lethal infection. It is a similar story for horses: Some horses may have a sore neck for a day or two after receiving this vaccine, but it’s no cause for alarm and doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the vaccine.

“While more serious reactions are possible with any vaccine, they occur in a tiny percentage of horses, and we haven’t seen any deaths or even any serious reactions attributed to the hendra vaccine,” he said. “Only 0.27% of doses administered have had a reaction reported, with the vast majority of these being site reactions that resolve with little or no treatment.

“It’s important for owners to rest assured that reactions to all vaccines are reported through the Australian Pesticides and Veterina