Prevalence of rabies has reduced significantly and this is attributed to the successful vaccination program and screening of animal samples. The use of rabies vaccine has helped stop the spread of the virus that is known to result in death in almost all of the cases. Like all other vaccines, the vaccine is essentially an active immunizing agent that triggers the body to produce antibodies. These antibodies prevent the infection and render protection from the rabies virus. The following subsections offer detailed information about the vaccine, and simple methods to identify possible rabies vaccine side effects which helps in mitigating the effects.

Overview of the virus, rabies vaccine and its uses

Rabies is transmitted to humans when the individual comes into contact with saliva or some neural tissue of the infected animal. This could occur when the rabid animal either scratches or bites the individual. The rabies virus is known to infect the central nervous system, and consequently individuals exhibit tell-tale symptoms of the infection. Some of the commonly reported symptoms of rabies includes delirium ad easily discernible abnormal behavior among the infected. The patient is likely to hallucinate, and have an abnormal fear of water and have difficulty in falling asleep. These stages are followed by the final stage of coma and ultimately death of the patient.

High risk individuals and recommended schedule of vaccination

Depending on the nature of work (such as work in animal shelters, rescue or veterinarian clinics), the individual is at risk of higher risk of exposure to the virus. Individuals in high-risk categories are advised to receive two doses of the rabies vaccine, with the first dose on day 0 and the second dose, seven days after the first one.  In certain instances, it may also be necessary for the individual to receive a booster dose before the end of three years of the second dose, and this is typically administered after a few diagnostics tests to check for risk.

While vaccines for other diseases or infections are given before the exposure, rabies vaccine is administered even after exposure to prevent infection from the rabies virus. However, this is to be given within a specified time period for it to be effective. Prior to administration of the vaccine, the area of the bite or scratch is to be cleaned thoroughly. This can be performed with a good soap and water, preferably with soap that contains carbolic acid. The vaccine is to be administered before the onset of symptoms, failing which the vaccine will be ineffective in offering protection from the virus.

Protection period after vaccination

Ideally after vaccination, the individual is protected for a period of 3 and a half years and will not require re-vaccination in this period even if exposed to bites or scratches. However, the patient may require immunoglobin (readymade antibody) in the event of being exposed to bites or scratches, apart from proper wound management.

Vaccination doses

Vaccine for protection against rabies is typically administered before exposure for individuals in high-risk category and also after exposure to the virus. Known as pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis, the vaccines are the only protection against infections.

Individuals who have been vaccinated in the past require only two doses, whereas individuals who have not received vaccination in the past are advised to received 4 doses over a period of two weeks. The gap between doses in such instances, is as follows – the first dose (day 0) followed by the second dose on day 3, the third on day 7 and the last on day 14. In addition to the vaccine, individuals also receive immunoglobin along with the first dose. Immunoglobin may also be administered at a alter date, but it is important to ensure that it is taken. The vaccine can be safely administered alongside most other vaccines and is not known to cause any adverse interactions.

Types of animals that can pass on the infections

The infection can be passed on by a rabid animal that is either domesticated, stray or could also be passed on by a wild animal. The types of wild animals in the US that are known to pass the virus include raccoons, and bats. Similarly, skunks and foxes are also known to pass on the virus, either to humans or to other animals. There is a possibility of rabies in other animals in other parts of the world, and visitors to certain nations and the wild, may be exposed to the rabies virus in such conditions. Globally, most infections passed on to humans or other pets are from dogs.

Possible interactions or rabies vaccine side effects

Medications and vaccines come with the possibility of interactions with other medications, food products or vaccines. This is because of a possible conflict in the mechanism of action of either of the two. The outcome of interactions differs; for instance, either of the two medications or vaccines may end up with lesser than desired potency. Similarly, either of the two vaccines or medications may have stronger and more potent outcomes than desired or expected outcomes. In certain instance, there is the possibility of drug interactions causing stronger side effects of either or both the vaccines and medications.

Interactions can also be caused when vaccines or medications are taken with certain types of food products, or could interact with intoxicants. It is therefore necessary to seek medical advice on what is permitted to be taken or consumed when receiving the vaccine or when administered with medications. Depending on the nature of interactions, and the intensity, either of the two interacting medications or vaccines may be temporarily suspended. In certain circumstances, it may be necessary to continue with both the formulations, and in such instances, the dosage and schedule is typically altered so as to reduce the impact.

Rabies vaccines may interact with chloroquine and are generally not given together. Patients may also be required to stay off tobacco products or alcohol during this period to avoid any possible undesirable interaction. Patients are to seek medical advice on this, and to avoid unscientific methods or advices regarding intake of food products. There are certain unsubstantiated studies in other parts of the world about food products that need to be avoided after receiving the vaccine, however, this is unfounded and individuals are to seek medical advice regarding the same.

Impact of medical conditions on the vaccine

Certain other medical conditions are known to have an impact on the effectiveness of the vaccine. For instance, patients with severe fever are to avoid the vaccine and opt for vaccination after the fever subsides. This is mainly because fever may end up getting considered as a symptom of side effects of the vaccine. While some patients are known to experience fever after receiving a dose, it would be hard to distinguish between existing fever and fever after the vaccination.

Patients with compromised immune system may experience lesser than desired effectiveness from the vaccine. This is common to all vaccines due to the nature of the mechanism of action of the vaccines. This may also apply to patients who are on immunosuppressive drugs that are typically given after the individual has received an organ transplant.

Precautions that need to be taken before vaccination

To prevent the possibility of rabies vaccine side effects it is necessary to take certain precautions. For instance, patients with a history of allergy are to seek medical advice before vaccination. Categories of individuals are known to be allergic to specific food products or certain dyes and preservatives. Allergies to animal dander is also relatively common among individuals. It is therefore necessary to check if there is a possibility of any allergic reaction from the vaccine.

It is also necessary to be aware of the safe nature of vaccines that have been studied and tested in laboratories and on humans. Rabies vaccines are not known to cause any side effects among pediatric patients, and results of documented studies or reports have not indicated occurrences that are of concern. Similarly, there are no documented reports or evidence of the vaccine causing undesirable effects among geriatric patients.

Breast feeding women may require advice from a specialist about use of the vaccine, as there is a very minimal risk to the baby from the breast milk of mothers who have received the vaccine. However, when compared with the serious of the virus, the minimal nature of side effect can be overlooked.

Commonly reported undesirable outcomes from rabies vaccine

As outlined earlier, all medications and vaccines come with the possibility of side effects. Rabies vaccines are no exception, despite being a relatively well tolerated vaccine. The nature of side effects may differ from person to person, with some experiencing mild or moderate effects while others experience strong or adverse effects. Mild effects are known to resolve naturally without the need for any medication or treatment, while strong and adverse effects require medical intervention. This may also sometimes require urgent or emergency intervention, depending on the condition. It is also necessary to bear in mind that a majority of individuals who receive medications or vaccines are unlikely to experience side effects.

There is a possibility of patients experiencing a burning sensation, with some experiencing a tingling kind of feeling. This is similar to being pricked with pins or needles. There is also the possibility of the individual feeling confused, with some experiencing some kind of discomfort. There is also the possibility of cough, with some known to have difficulty while swallowing food. Patients have reported a change in heart beat rate, with some having a faster rate. The individual may also turn unusually irritable, and behave differently.

Other known or reported effects include a sudden feeling of loss of strength or weakness, while some have reported a stiffness in the muscles or pain and weakness in the muscles. The individual may also witness swelling around the eyes, or the lips and face. The onset of rashes is also a possibility, among some individuals, and there could be a reddish appearance on the skin. Vomiting is also a possible outcome, but is known to be very rare in occurrence. Pain in the stomach and bruising at the site of injection are other possible outcomes that may be experienced with the vaccine.

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