In the United States, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issues written recommendations regarding scheduling and dosing of vaccinations for both children and adults. ACIP members are selected by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to provide advice on controlling vaccine-preventable diseases; the committee is the only federal unit to make these recommendations.
ACIP issues new and updated recommendations when the status of a given disease changes, or when new data suggests that a vaccine dosage or schedule should be changed. Recently, in response to rabies surveillance data, clinical studies, experimental work and other factors, the Committee issued new recommendations for prophylactic rabies vaccination after possible exposure to the virus.
Rabies is nearly always fatal after symptoms begin to appear. However, if an exposed individual is treated promptly (with proper wound care and the administration of rabies immune globulin and rabies vaccine), the disease can usually be prevented. The previous ACIP recommendations were for five doses of rabies vaccine following exposure; now, the ACIP has reduced the dosage schedule, recommending only four doses of the vaccine for exposed individuals without prior protection against the disease. The details of ACIP’s updated recommendations are available as part of the March 19, 2010 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
While most Americans will never need to worry about post-exposure rabies vaccination, it’s important to know where to find information about recommended vaccinations and what to do if you’ve been exposed to a rare disease. Many Americans think that recommended immunizations end in childhood–not so! To see ACIP’s recommended adult vaccination schedule, or for more information, visit the Immunization Schedules section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.