Letter: Get vaccinated for your loved ones, a safer community


As a practicing veterinarian for over 40 years I’d like to weigh in on COVID vaccinations with an analogy. Most pet owners are aware of a deadly disease in dogs called parvovirus. When I graduated from veterinary school in 1979 there was no such thing as “parvovirus.”

My first job was on the coast of Washington state, in Raymond. Practically every day we saw at least one case of salmon poisoning. Dogs contracted it by eating/licking raw salmon found along the coast. It caused severe gastrointestinal inflammation with quite severe symptoms.

The good news was the illness was easy to diagnose positively with ID of a particular parasite egg on a microscope slide and treatment with fluids and tetracyclines.

At some point, around 1980, dogs began coming in with similar GI symptoms, but the microscope slides were negative, the dogs did not respond to tetracyclines and often were dead in 24 hours. It quickly became a dog pandemic around the country.

A virus endemic to cats had mutated and suddenly became infectious to dogs.

Over a relatively short period of time a vaccine was developed and, because the disease was so dramatically deadly, people were very anxious to get their dogs vaccinated.

During the 1980s, there were still plenty of cases, especially in the more rural areas where I was, but cases steadily declined as more and more dogs were vaccinated. By the 2000s we saw way fewer cases. Now it’s extremely rare to see a case.

Viruses are not like bacteria that can just live on surfaces. Viruses need a susceptible host to invade and reproduce.

If there aren’t enough susceptible dogs the virus just begins to fade away. The same with the COVID virus.

The goal of herd immunity is not so much just getting approximately 75 percent of the population vaccinated so that 75 percent of the population is protected; it’s to deprive the virus of a sufficient population of susceptible hosts.

The virus begins to fade away and the disease becomes much more manageable.

I firmly believe the intent of scientists, immunologists, vaccine developers and doctors is to help adults and children live safer, healthier lives.

My fear of this deadly and debilitating COVID-19 far outpaces any fear of the vaccines. There are clients I see that don’t want a parvovirus vaccine for their dog. I tell them it’s risky — many haven’t seen the horrible death it causes.

The reason they haven’t seen it and can indulge the anti-vaccine approach is because so many have believed in the vaccine before them and now the landscape is safer.

A “parvovirus herd immunity” has been accomplished. An anti-vaccine approach to COVID-19 ensures a protracted pandemic, I believe.

Please get vaccinated for yourself, for your family that loves you, for your community.

Ken Leaman, DVM

Oak Harbor

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