Why Do Vaccines Fail?
Since Feline Distemper doesn’t have a cure, cat owners are strongly urged to get their feline friends vaccinated. There may not be a 100% guarantee that doing so will keep cats from contracting the virus, but most Feline Distemper vaccines are highly effective and significantly reduce the risk of infection. However, certain factors may affect how well they work and in some cases, even cause them not to work at all. Here are 4 reasons why Feline Distemper vaccines sometimes fail:
Like most products, vaccines need to be stored under suitable conditions to maintain their quality. Medication, for instance, must be kept in a dry, well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight at room temperature. However, vaccines, being biological preparations of live, weakened, or killed microorganisms, are a lot more sensitive—if not handled or stored properly, they quickly become less effective or inactivated.
Since government-licensed manufacturers follow strict quality control guidelines, they make sure that vaccines are potent at the time they depart from the factory. In most cases, vaccine inactivation happens during the transportation process, if the vaccines are exposed to warm temperatures during delivery, shipping, or at the distributor. For that reason, most veterinarians refuse to receive vaccines that aren’t packaged in cool water packs.
Varying Immune Response
Another reason why Feline Distemper vaccines sometimes fail is that cats have varying immune responses. By triggering the body’s defense system to produce antibodies against the virus, vaccines help cats gain immunity to the disease. However, some may not produce enough antibodies to effectively ward off Feline Distemper. There’s even a possibility that a cat won’t respond to the vaccine at all.
If you’ve had your cat vaccinated against Feline Distemper and want to know if they’re still protected, you can talk to your veterinarian about titer testing. It can measure the number of antibodies your cat has against the disease and help determine whether or not they need a booster shot.
State of a Cat’s Immune System
Vaccination is all about triggering an immune response and getting the body to produce antibodies, so the state of a cat’s immune system is a huge factor when it comes to how well a vaccine will work. If a cat has an underdeveloped immune system, such as in a very young kitten, or one that’s suppressed or weakened, then the vaccine will not be able to prompt an appropriate immune response. If a cat is sick, their immune system will be more focused on recovering and less on producing antibodies to a disease.
That’s why, before getting your cat vaccinated, it’s important to make sure that they’re in tip-top shape and to discuss any health concerns that they may have with your veterinarian.
Lastly, we have maternal antibodies, which get passed from a mother cat to her kittens to protect them during a vulnerable period in the development of their immune systems. If a mother cat has already been exposed to Feline Distemper, whether through vaccination or disease contraction, then she’ll most likely have antibodies for the virus.
However, immunity from maternal antibodies is temporary. Some kittens can remain protected for five weeks, while others, up to 8 weeks—it simply depends on the mother cat’s level of immunity. Normally, veterinarians recommend that kittens begin their first round of Feline Distemper shots when they reach six weeks, with the last ones given at 16 weeks. Since there’s no way of knowing when a kitten will lose all their maternal antibodies, multiple shots are given to ensure protection.
Maternal antibodies prevent kittens from gaining immunity through vaccination because, instead of allowing the kittens themselves to fight the virus by producing their own antibodies, the maternal antibodies do all the work. So as long as maternal antibodies are present, vaccines will not be able to provoke enough of an immune response to trigger antibody production.