I've done a lot of research on FIP lately (had a scare that turned out not to be FIP, thank God), and I agree with Sandie - the vaccine (commercially known as Primucell) isn't really that valuable, particularly for those of us who have gotten cats from shelters or catteries.
Some vets/researchers are concerned that giving the vaccine to a cat already exposed to the feline coronavirus (FCoV, the benign form of the virus) might potentially increase its risk for developing FIP. And a vast majority of cats from multiple-cat homes have
already been exposed to the coronavirus (anywhere from 60 - 90% of cats will test positive for FCoV exposure. In NYC, our largest animal hospital (Animal Medical Center) won't even give the vaccine at all.
I should add that some vets do say that the risk from the vaccine is minimal. Unfortunately, from all I've read, the benefit is uncertain anyway. It only works of cats that have not been exposed at all, and even of those, it's effective only 50-70% of the time.
(However, considering the disease is invariably fatal, if you're absolutely certain that your cat hasn't been exposed, 50-70% chance of successful FIP prevention is certainly better than none.)
Since I'm not a vet, though, here's some info from folks who know a lot more than I do:
From Animal Health Channel
|An FIP vaccine was introduced in 1991. Its use remains controversial because the vaccine cannot help a cat that is already infected or that previously has been exposed to FIPV or FECV. Therefore, vaccinating a cat that already has coronavirus antibodies or that has been exposed to other infected cats is not recommended. In fact, if the theory of antibody-dependent enhancement is valid, vaccinating a previously exposed cat could actually increase its risk for developing FIP. The decision to vaccinate rests with the individual cat owner and the veterinarian.
Another excellent source on FIP is the Winn Feline Health Foundation's FIP page
. In an article by Dr. Susan Little, she writes:
|Since FIP is a severe and fatal disease, the safety of any vaccine is a paramount consideration. Dr. Fred Scott of the Cornell Feline Health Center, concluded in a recently published paper, that the risks associated with the Primucell FIP vaccine are minimal in most situations. He notes that the vaccine has been in use for 7 years with no increase in the incidence of FIP. Troubling reports of a phenomenon called "antibody-dependent enhancement" (ADE) of infection arose from several labs, where cats vaccinated with FIP vaccines and challenged experimentally with virus developed accelerated disease instead of being protected. It is not known whether the phenomenon of ADE occurs in the real world and there is no easy way to find out. If it does occur, it is likely an uncommon event, but the possibility remains troubling.
Finally, two more valuable FIP resources I must share:
- Dr. Diane Addie's particularly comprehensive FIP site
, aimed at catteries but extremely valuable for anyone trying to research this terrible disease.
- The Orion Foundation
is a nonprofit organization to raise funds for research and education about FIP. They also have an FIP support mailing list.
Hope this helps a bit! Good luck whatever you decide.