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The different types of vaccines

There are a number of types of vaccines that work in slightly different ways.

There are no live or modified-live vaccines available in Australia for horses.

All horse vaccines in Australia are non-living vaccines – they contain bacteria or viruses that have been killed or significantly weakened, rather than live organisms. This can be either a specific part of the organism, or entire killed organisms.  

Non-living vaccines will not cause the disease they are designed to protect against. However, non-living vaccines generally produce immunity that is relatively short-lived. This is why multiple vaccinations are required for the primary course, followed by regular booster vaccinations. Non-living vaccines can be further divided into the following:

Killed vaccines

As the name suggests, killed vaccines contain bacteria or viruses that have been killed so that they can’t infect the horse. But even though the germs have been killed, the horse’s immune system still reacts to them and produces antibodies against that disease.

Some examples of killed vaccines include:

  • Duvaxyn EHV 1,4 (protection against equine herpesvirus)
  • Equivac EST (protection against Salmonella).

Other types of vaccines

Subunit vaccines generally work on the same principle but instead of taking a killed version of the entire bacteria or virus, only a specific portion of the organism is used. This tiny portion (the antigen) is the part of the virus or bacteria that stimulates a response from the immune system. Special technologies can be used to make these vaccines very effective at stimulating antibody production.

Some examples of subunit vaccines include:

  • Equivac S (protection against strangles),
  • Equivac HeV (protection against Hendra virus)