What you should know
Vaccination in the pigeon sport is done against pox, paramyxo and paratyphoid. The vaccination against PMV (paramyxo) is mandatory, and without a vaccination certificate you can't race in the Netherlands or Belgium.
There is an essential difference between vaccinating and giving treatment.
With a treatment we try to cure the pigeons of an ailment, with vaccinating we try to avoid the disorder by letting the pigeons build up antibodies.
Pox is spread by insects and through fighting.
The disease is usually not serious, but having pigeons with pox means that you won't be able to race with them for over a month.
The most favoured way of vaccinating is the 'follicle method' on the leg.
The best time to vaccinate is one month before the start of the racing season; it is better not to vaccinate during the moult.
One week after vaccination, the pigeons have built up their immunity.
In the past it was thought that vaccinated pigeons were immune to pox for the rest of their lives, but this is not so.
The information leaflet does not mention a lifelong immunity either.
However, pigeons that have had pox will usually not get it again, and the same applies to pigeons that have been in contact with contaminated birds.
These have vaccinated themselves naturally as it were.
These days there are combination vaccines on the market, and some fanciers like that.
Vaccinating only once against pox and paramyxo does indeed save time, but I am not in favour of it. I have heard too many complaints.
The dissolved vaccine has to be used immediately; the remainder has to be thrown away.
As mentioned above, the yearly vaccination against paramyxo is mandatory.
The best time to vaccinate young pigeons is when they are between 6 and 8 weeks old; immediately after weaning is too early, waiting too long is an unnecessary risk.
Many fanciers regard it a waste of money to vaccinate every year, and pigeons that are not raced will only be vaccinated in the year of their birth.
According to the scientists, yearly vaccination is indeed not necessary, but only once in a pigeon's life is also risky.
They favour vaccinating twice, once as young pigeon and once as a yearling.
Especially with summer hatched youngsters, it often happens that vaccination is forgotten, and paramyxo is often the result.
What some do in that case is an emergency vaccination: with La Sota.
This is strongly discouraged. A vaccine is a living virus and the result can be that paramyxo will strike even faster and more severe.
When paramyxo is identified in a loft, the vet is required to inform the ministry, with the result that a protective circle is established.
In the media you will read about 'bird flu' then.
This is much exaggerated of course and specialized vets who are aware of this will wisely keep quiet about it.
In recent years, fanciers have vaccinated more and more against paratyphoid.
Vets and scientists have different opinions about the effectiveness of it, and it has to be said, many stopped doing it.
I myself don't vaccinate, and it is definitely wrong to vaccinate shortly before the pigeons are coupled.
What can be done is vaccinate when they are sitting; the pigeons will be less active for a few days but they will recover very soon.
Vaccinating in problem lofts where paratyphoid is or has been present is said to be effective.
The best way is to vaccinate with an auto vaccine (a culture from your own pigeons) after a thorough treatment with for instance Baytril, Parastop, Cosumix, Trimetroprim, Sulfa Theraprim or a product that is similar to the former Altabactine.
The last few years Zoosal T from Germany is often used for vaccination and it is said to be more effective than the classic products, but that is not proven.
The treatment before vaccination is especially important.
Because when there are germs in the pigeons, vaccination doesn't help at all.
You need a treatment that kills the germs, something that vaccination does not.
Some fanciers vaccinate against pox and/or paratyphoid during the season because it is believed that it would give the form a boost.
It is doubtful whether that is true.
Nobilis for instance, the producer of the vaccine Ovo-Peristerin, states that vaccination has no impact on the health of a pigeon.
Treating with La Sota is said to improve the form; dissolve a tablet in one third of a coffee cup of distilled water or still mineral water.
It is very important, with whatever kind of vaccination, that the pigeons are very healthy to begin with. Less healthy pigeons will not develop a good immunity.
Regrettably, it is not possible to vaccinate against canker, circovirus or Adeno Coli.