Regular Winter Session
AVMA Executive Board
POLICY ON ANNUAL RABIES VACCINATION WAIVER
RESOLVED, that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) approve the Policy
on Annual Rabies Vaccination Waiver as noted below and related form in the
Annual Rabies Vaccination Waiver
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) strongly supports the National Association of State
Public Health Veterinarians’ (NASPHV) recommendation that all dogs, cats, and ferrets should be
vaccinated to protect against rabies infection. Rabies is an almost invariably fatal disease for animals and
humans; vaccination of animals is a critical step in preventing infection and protecting public health.
However, AVMA recognizes that some individual animals may have experienced a severe life-threatening
adverse event to a previous rabies vaccination that may contraindicate vaccination, or a waiver might be
necessary for research purposes However, AVMA recognizes some animals might require a waiver from
rabies vaccination because the vaccination poses an unacceptably high risk to the health of the individual
animal, or a waiver might be necessary for research purposes. If adequate steps can be taken to minimize
the chance of exposure to rabies virus, the AVMA recommends that such animals be granted a waiver
from mandatory rabies vaccination, upon recommendation of a licensed veterinarian and with the
concurrence of the appropriate public health authorities. The attached “Model Annual Rabies Vaccination
Waiver Form” may be used as a template for this purpose.
Because rabies continues to be a significant public health issue, waivers should not be issued arbitrarily
upon client request and should be based upon clinical evidence that the animal would be at considerable
risk of being harmed by the vaccine because of a diagnosed medical condition. Modern killed virus or
recombinant rabies vaccines have no risk of inducing rabies in the vaccinated animal and are not
contraindicated in most immunocompromised animals. Advanced age of the animal or a desire on the part
of the client or veterinarian to minimize the use of vaccinations (in the absence of a specific
contraindication to vaccination) should not be considered sufficient justification for issuing a rabies
To ensure that the risk to both the individual animal and to public health is considered, a waiver of rabies
vaccination should only be issued when a licensed veterinarian with a valid veterinarian-client-patient
relationship with the animal and the appropriate public health authorities concur that the waiver should be
issued. The client must be informed that, even if a waiver is issued, the waiver only serves to allow the
animal to be properly licensed in compliance with animal control regulations. In the event that the animal
is involved in a potential rabies exposure incident, the animal should be considered unvaccinated against
rabies for the purpose of appropriate public health regulations or when following the recommendations of
the NASPHV Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control. All rabies vaccination waivers
should be reconsidered at least yearly and, if appropriate, may be renewed on an annual basis following a
reassessment of the animal’s condition.
Although the AVMA supports the existence of a process for issuing waivers of rabies vaccination
requirements in every jurisdiction, this policy should not be construed as justification for failing to
vaccinate animals for rabies in jurisdictions where such vaccination is required by law and no waiver or
delay process exists.
Statement about the Resolution
Following a request from the Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents (COBTA) Executive Board
liaison over a year ago that the AVMA consider a policy on rabies vaccination exemptions due to preexisting
medical conditions and an accompanying model certificate, the Council on Public Health and
Regulatory Veterinary Medicine (CPHRVM) has worked diligently with multiple entities to develop a policy
to address exemptions from mandatory rabies vaccination requirements.
Why is this called "Policy on ANNUAL Rabies Vaccination Waiver"?
Most states require rabies to be given every 3 years rather than annually. Why won't the AVMA come out against ANNUAL Rabies vaccines especially in light of scientific evidence proving that rabies vaccines are effective for at least 7 years?
Why is advanced age not a valid reason for a rabies exemption?
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