County health board member praises the virtues of vaccination

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Mr. Editor,

I have been a resident of Sanders County and a veterinarian for over 45 years. At that time, I had never written a letter to the editor.

I am proud to have been a member of the Sanders County Board of Health for over a decade. COVID-19 is by far the most significant health challenge we have ever faced.

Most of the day-to-day work of the Board of Health is carried out by the county health officer, the county health nurse and other county employees. Particularly in these difficult times, we are fortunate to have dedicated workers in these roles.

I began this letter days after our July Board of Health meeting and am submitting it now in response to concerns and lingering questions from local citizens. Most of the issues raised at the meeting were either budgetary, political or procedural and are best addressed by department heads.

The only critical question that was not specifically asked was “Why is the Board of Health pro vaccine?” Because this is a very valid question with important implications, I want to approach this subject in terms of my life as a veterinarian. I am not speaking for the board as a whole or for any of its other members.

In the early 1980s, the parvo virus became a canine epidemic first in populated areas on both coasts and eventually reached rural Sanders County. Parvo is a very contagious virus which is particularly serious in puppies. It causes severe diarrhea and vomiting and often ends in death even with aggressive veterinary care.

Treatment typically meant days of hospitalization and expense for the owner. As this was a new disease, no vaccine was available. We have improved in treating it and most vets across the country have tried available vaccines on a test basis in an attempt to slow the outbreak.

Most people knew someone who had lost one or more dogs to the parvo and they wanted to prevent this from happening to them. Eventually, a good vaccine was produced and the generalized epidemic was stopped. Small localized foci still occur in unvaccinated animals.

While there are differences between Covid-19 and Parvo, for me there are also some very real similarities.

Veterinarians look after large and varied populations of animals (herds) often in confined areas. Watching large numbers of animals die slowly, miserable deaths is heartbreaking, and even more so if you know that the disease could have been prevented by vaccination.

It must have been even more devastating for human healthcare workers as they battled diseases like polio, smallpox, measles and now Covid-19.

Healthy animals and healthy people have a better quality of life and are more productive – a win / win situation for everyone. In the 1980s, when a Parvo vaccine became widely available, grateful people lined up to protect their dogs.

As now, there was no long-term data, but dog owners were extremely relieved to have some protection against such a devastating virus.

In closing, I would like to thank the citizens concerned for their courtesy during the Board of Health meeting.

I have tried here to explain my point of view as a vet and why I think the vaccine is a gift from God for animals and humans. Vaccines work and they improve the lives of all creatures.

In my experience, the risks of vaccinations in animals are minimal compared to the severity of the diseases they prevent. I believe this is also true for the Covid-19 vaccine.

I truly believe that we are all in the same boat as friends and neighbors and when this is over we should still be friends and neighbors.

Truly,

Bob Gregg, DMV

Plains, Montana


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