Is it okay to give our own vaccines?
Dear YMCA Camp,
This is a good question, which brings up some legal and ethical questions. First of all, most vaccines are "over-the counter," meaning that they can be legally purchased and administered by anyone that is competent to give an inter-muscular injection. There are some vaccines that do not fall into this category such as rabies, which must be administered by a licensed veterinarian. So if you are talking about over-the-counter vaccines, you can legitimately purchase and give these vaccines yourself.
However, I would suggest you consider the liability ramifications of giving vaccines to horses that are not owned or leased by you. If, for instance, you vaccinate a boarded horse or a privately owned horse and the horse has a reaction to the vaccine, you could be in big trouble and may be accused of practicing veterinary medicine without a license. This would be true of any drug that you give a non-owned horse, unless you were specifically ordered to do so by a licensed vet. Your vet is formally educated in giving injections and other medications and she is also insured for that activity. You, as a horse trainer, barn manger or equestrian director are not formally educated or insured for practicing medicine.
When I was younger and dumber, I used to vaccinate my clients horses, thinking I was doing them a big favor by saving them a little money and at the same time putting a little money in my own pocket. Luckily for me, I never had a problem. Then I heard a story about a person whose horse had died after a very routine vaccination given by a vet. It occurred to me that if that could happen to a vet, it could sure as heck happen to me, so why should I take that risk?
There is one more important factor to consider before you decide to vaccinate your own horses or client's horses, and that is the care and feeding of your vet. Believe it or not, a huge portion of any vet's income comes from routine vaccinations, medications and de-worming. If I want to have a good relationship with my vet so that I can call her at 3:00 AM to come treat a colicked horse, then maybe I need to throw a few dollars her way on vaccines, so that she views me as a valued client.
In my business, I have personal horses and school horses, plus a barn full of boarded and training horses. My vet understands that I will purchase and administer vaccines for my own horses, but I always have the client-owned horses vaccinated by my vet. This gives her the revenues she deserves and a relationship with the client-owned horses, while protecting my own liability. Incidentally, I also price out the vaccines and de-wormer I purchase and give my vet the opportunity to match the price and usually she does. She may charge a little more, but once I factor in shipping, it is usually not enough of a difference to give my business to a stranger.