Vaccines to Prevent Rabies: Preventive Rabies Vaccination


Rabies is a serious disease caused by a virus. This is mainly a disease of animals and humans get rabies when they are bitten by infected animals.

December 12, 2017

Vaccines to Prevent Rabies: Preventive Rabies Vaccination

It is important that children, especially infants and young children, receive recommended immunizations on time. Vaccines also protect teenagers and adults to keep them healthy throughout their lives.
Rabies is a serious disease caused by a virus. This is mainly a disease of animals and humans get rabies when they are bitten by infected animals. The first symptoms of rabies may be very similar to those of the flu including general weakness or discomfort, fever or headache which may last for days. There may be also discomfort or a prickling or itching sensation at the site of bite which can progress to symptoms of cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion and agitation within days.
Wild animals, especially bats are the most common source of human rabies infection. Skunks, raccoons, dogs, cats, coyotes, foxes and other mammals can also transmit the disease. Bites from unvaccinated dogs can cause death in most of the cases.

Rabies Vaccine:

Rabies vaccine

is made from killed rabies virus. It cannot cause rabies. Rabies vaccine is given to people at high risk of rabies to protect them if they are exposed. It can also prevent the disease if it is given to a person after they have been exposed.

When and Who Should Get Rabies Vaccine?

Preventive vaccination (no exposure):

People at high risk of exposure to rabies, such as veterinarians, animal handlers, rabies laboratory workers, spelunkers and rabies biologics production workers should get rabies vaccine.
The vaccine should also be considered for:

  • People whose activities bring them into frequent contact with rabies virus or with possibly rabid animals.
  • International travelers who are likely to come in contact with animals in parts of the world where rabies is common.

The pre-exposure schedule for rabies vaccination is 3 doses. The first dose can be given as appropriate. Second one 7 days after first dose and the third one 21 days or 28 days after first dose.
Periodic testing for immunity is recommended for laboratory workers and others who may be repeatedly exposed to rabies virus. A booster doses should be given as required. Testing or booster doses are not recommended for travelers. Speak to your doctor for details.

Vaccination after an exposure:

Anyone who has been bitten by an animal or who otherwise may have been exposed to rabies, should clean the wound and visit a doctor immediately. The doctor will determine if they need to be vaccinated.
A person who is exposed and has never been vaccinated against rabies should get 4 doses of rabies vaccine. The first dose right away and additional doses on the 3rd, 7th, and 14th days. A another shot called Rabies Immune Globulin should be given at the same time as the first dose.
A person who has been previously vaccinated should get 2 doses of rabies vaccine. The first dose right away and another on the 3rd day. Rabies Immune Globulin is not required in this case.

Talk to your doctor before getting rabies vaccine if you:

  • ever had a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of rabies vaccine or to any component of the vaccine.
  • are moderately or severely ill. You should probably wait until you recover.
  • have a weakened immune system because of:

                     HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
                     treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids
                     cancer, or cancer treatment with radiation or drugs
If you have been exposed to rabies virus, you should get the vaccine regardless of any other illnesses you may have.

Risks from rabies vaccine:

There are chances of side effects are usually mild and go away on their own. Serious reactions are also possible but are rare.
Some of the mild Problems following rabies vaccine include:

  • soreness, redness, swelling, or itching where the shot was given
  • headache, nausea, abdominal pain, muscle aches, dizziness

Hives, pain in the joints and fever are some of the moderate problems.
Other nervous system disorders, such as Guillain Barre syndrome (GBS) is very rare.

Problems that could happen after any vaccine:

  • Sometimes people faint after vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting. If you feel dizzy, have vision changes or ringing in the ears, speak to your doctor.
  • In some cases severe pain in the shoulder and difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given could happen.
  • A severe allergic reaction would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
  • There is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death. The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. You can get all the information from Vaccine Safety site.

Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. If you have severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes , call 9-1-1 or find the nearest hospital.
The reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) through the VAERS website or by calling 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.
If you are injured by a vaccine, you can file a claim in  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website to get the compensation.

Learn more about Vaccine:

Your doctor can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
You can call your local or state health department or can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by:
        Calling 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)
        Visiting  CDC vaccines website