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Creating A Vaccination Program For Your Animal Sanctuary

A syringe next to three vials.

When looking into a vaccination program for your residents, we recommend you consult with your veterinarian, as they can help you determine what makes the most sense based on your region and the individuals in your care. Depending on the species you are caring for, most, if not all, available vaccines may be designed for use in large-scale agricultural settings, where the goal is to maximize profits by reducing mortality rates. Not all are appropriate, or necessary,  for use in a sanctuary setting

The purpose of this resource is to give you information about the main types of vaccines available, as well as an idea of what diseases and organisms sanctuaries commonly vaccinate against. However, your veterinarian will be able to best advise you about a vaccination program for your residents. Just make sure your veterinarian fully understands your mission and how the sanctuary functions. There are certain vaccinations that might be recommended to most of their clients, but are not necessary for individuals who will never breed or who spend most of their lives at the sanctuary, rather than frequently going to exhibitions where they are exposed to many other animals with unknown backgrounds.

The Main Types Of Vaccines

In order to better understand the available vaccines and distinguish between the different label recommendations, you should familiarize yourself with the two main types of vaccines: attenuated and inactivated. While there are other types and subcategories, these are the two you definitely should be familiar with. 

Attenuated (Live or Modified Live) Vaccines

In these vaccines, the active part of the vaccine is actually some of the live organism that you are protecting the individual against. However, it has been treated to weaken the organism. This is designed to mimic the natural infection without the disease-causing ability. These vaccines are generally developed to produce a lasting immune response for a longer period of time than other vaccines with just one dose. These vaccines need to be stored and handled very carefully and discarded soon after opening or reconstitution. Always follow label instructions. Some vaccines, for example, those made for chickens, typically come in 500 dose or larger sized vials, since they are intended for large-scale production settings. Though following package instructions will result in significant amounts of wasted vaccine, you must still follow package instructions and should never use these vaccines after the labeled timeline! 

Inactivated (Killed) Vaccines

In these vaccines, the organism that you are vaccinating against has been fully killed, rendering it incapable of causing serious disease. However, it can still trigger an immune response in the individual. In general, the level of immunity produced by these vaccines is weaker and not as long lasting as the attenuated vaccines, and as a result, subsequent boosters will be required more often.

Vaccination Questions For Your Veterinarian

When discussing a vaccination program with your veterinarian, here are some things to consider:

  • What is the benefit of vaccinating your residents with each of the vaccines recommended?
  • What is the likelihood of an adverse reaction to the vaccine? What types of reactions are common? (abscesses, fever, discomfort, anaphylaxis, etc.) What emergency drugs should you have on hand in the case of an adverse reaction? (such as epinephrine)
  • Is there a potential risk of the vaccine causing disease?
  • Does vaccination impact future testing for the disease it protects against? Will it cause residents to test positive? If so, what are the implications of that?
  • Does this vaccine cause individuals to be carriers who shed the disease and can infect others?

Common Vaccinations Used At Farmed Animal Sanctuaries By Species

Always Talk To Your Vet About The Right Vaccines For Your Residents!
The table below illustrates some of the diseases and organisms that sanctuaries commonly vaccinate against, as well as other vaccinations to consider depending on your sanctuary’s region and history of disease outbreak. Please note that vaccination recommendations can vary significantly based on location, so you may find that some vaccinations listed as “additional” are, in fact, standard practice in your region. Your veterinarian may also recommend vaccinations not listed here. This table is in no way meant to be a substitute for working with a qualified veterinarian to create a vaccination protocol tailored to each specific sanctuary’s need. Please note that some of the vaccinations listed depend on extra-label vaccine use. If you haven’t yet, please read our disclaimer.

SpeciesCommon Vaccinations*Additional Vaccinations To Consider *
ChickensN/AFowl Pox
TurkeysN/AFowl Pox
DucksN/AWest Nile
GeeseN/AWest Nile

Clostridium perfringens type C and D and
tetanus combo
Caseous Lymphadenitis

Clostridium perfringens type C and D and
tetanus combo
Caseous Lymphadenitis

Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD),
Parainfluenza 3 (PI3), Bovine Respiratory
Syncytial Virus (BRSV), Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), and Leptospirosis combo 

Clostridium perfringens type C and D and tetanus combo



Tetanus, Encephalomyelitis, and West Nile combo



Tetanus, Encephalomyelitis, and West Nile combo



Clostridium perfringens type C and D and tetanus combo
Other Clostridial combs (ex 7-1 or 8-1)

West Nile

Caseous Lymphadenitis

Clostridium perfringens type C and D and tetanus combo
Other Clostridial combs (ex 7-1 or 8-1)

West Nile

Caseous Lymphadenitis
RabbitsN/ARabbit Hemorrhagic Disease-1 & 2

* Listed by the diseases or organisms they protect against. In many cases, there are multiple vaccines available that protect against the same disease or organism, and there are numerous combination vaccines available.

Always Follow The Guidelines!

When establishing a vaccination program for your residents, make sure you follow the schedule recommended by your veterinarian or vaccine manufacturer’s instructions. In addition to creating a schedule for established residents, be sure to have a plan in place for incoming residents, too. For every vaccine used, make sure you know how to properly administer and are aware of any age restrictions, booster requirements, and safety considerations to ensure proper use. When considering vaccinating a sick or health compromised individual, have a conversation with your veterinarian about whether or not vaccination is in their best interest.

Be sure to keep thorough records of all vaccines administered, both by caregiving staff and by a licensed veterinarian (some vaccines must only be administered by a licensed veterinarian). You can download our Resident Vaccination Log here!

The right vaccination program can play an important part in keeping your residents healthy. If you have not already done so, be sure to have a conversation with your veterinarian about the best vaccination strategy for your residents!


Farm Sanctuary

Fowlpox In Chickens And Turkeys | Merck Veterinary Manual

Is There A West Nile Vaccine Available For Birds? | USGS

Mini Pig Vaccinations | Mini Pig Info

Vaccinations In Camelids | Colorado State University Extension

Updated on December 14, 2021

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